Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book review: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

This is a debut novel by Amy Hansen that combines mystery with romance and women’s literature. I throw in the women’s literature aspect because the conclusion of the book and the event that set off the story described in this book caused me to evaluate how women are still perceived by society and often see themselves. Even if you are not that interested in that specific subject matter, the book is a nice vacation read that can simply be enjoyed as a mystery novel and a well written one at that! 

The events that are described span several decades, with the majority playing in the present, but the past is needed to explain why things happen now. Ruby, the protagonist of the story, dropped out of Tarble College shortly before her graduation over a bad love affair. She is still suffering the effects of that experience, seeking regular counseling and her behavior still concerns her mother, who fears her daughter will sink into serious depression. While this story may sound like a downer, the overall book is very life affirming and we can see Ruby overcome the depression and recognizing her own strength as an individual as the story develops. 

What starts innocently enough as a suitcase belonging to another Tarble alumnus dropped off at Ruby’s place because Ruby borrowed it once and it still has Ruby’s name and address on it, develops into a much darker story that shows how the persistence of revenge can seriously damage people. The owner of the suitcase, Beth, has gone missing and even though Ruby was not close to Beth, she feels that she has to determine what happened to Beth. In part, Ruby feels close to Beth since inside the suitcase was a book by Virginia Woolf that Ruby blames for her depression. While Beth’s mother sees the suitcase as a sign that her daughter is reaching out to her, Ruby is determined to visit Tarble and revisit her own demons because the book to her is a clear message that she needs to visit the past to have a chance at a future.

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