Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Henson

A mixed review for this one. There were times when I really sank into the story and thought the author gave a well drawn word picture. There were other times I wondered where she was going. I think Meg Cabot in her cover blurb hit the nail on the head when she said it was " the perfect beach read." It's certainly more than chick-lit, but it lacks the heft of a good mystery.

In short, Ruby Rousseau, 20 year old college drop-out who now writes obituaries for a living, finds herself pulled into looking for a missing girl who was at all-girls Tartle College with her. Ruby has not returned to Tartle since her ill-fated romance with a married professor ended in disaster and a failed suicide attempt. So far, lots of tantalizing tid-bits......How coincidental that Tartle is having alumnae weekend and Ruby's roommate Heidi is on staff now and in charge of the festivities!  Desparate to break out of the obit gig, Ruby accepts a challenge from her boss to do a piece about the missing girl, and returns to Tartle.

At this point, the story and Ruby's life begin to unravel (or get scrambled up). Strange coincidences are unearthed, there's another girl lying in the hospital having just tried to kill herself, Ruby is befriended by a professor who seems too convenient for belief, and bam, bam, bam, all kinds of little puzzle pieces start falling out of the sky, and into the frame to fit perfectly. Or do they?  I also found the literary allusions to Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and other writers named Sexton and Perkins very disruptive.  I don't have a strong background in English lit, and resented having to go find information about these women to find how their writing and ghostly presences fit into and influenced the story.

I will hand it to Amy Gail Hansen. She has written a book that seems determined to fall apart in the middle after a very tightly woven beginning. It is the ending however, that saves the book. Several times, I almost put the story aside, believing I knew how it ended, only to find that I was totally wrong and the bad guy was never on my radar screen.  The plot saves the book. The settings were entertaining:  it's always fun to re-visit New Orleans and drink some java at Cafe DuMonde whilst blowing powdered sugar off my beignet, and I'm a graduate of an all-girls college so Tartle was familiar too; but I found the female characters too girly oozy for my liking, even though they worked well in the story.

Altogether an slightly above average read that won't disappoint anyone looking for a fun and light piece of fiction.  Just don't expect the Great American Novel.

Title: The Butterfly Sister
Author:  Amy  Gail Hansen
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (2013), 320 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: suicide, betrayal, inappropriate relationships
Setting: College campus
Source: Review copy from publisher
Why did I read this book now? Long-listed for Maine Readers Choice Award 


  1. Tina, I chose this one because I went to an all-girls prep school and a year at a women's college. Actually I liked the book but perhaps I was just in the right mood or didn't expect great literature.

  2. This was one book that seemed to have more negative reviews than positive so I mentally backlisted it:) I do have a copy though.

    Hope you are doing well Tina


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