Sunday, 9 March 2014

Sister Sundays | Review: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

Book: The Butterfly Sister

Author: Amy Gail Hansen

Pages: 360

Time taken to read: 6 hours over a couple of days

Plot Summary: Eight months after dropping out of Tarble, an all-women's college, twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is still haunted by the memories of her senior year-a year marred by an affair with her English professor and a deep depression that not only caused her to question her own sanity but prompted a failed suicide attempt.

And then a mysterious paisley print suitcase arrives, bearing Ruby's name and address on the tag. When Ruby tries to return the luggage to its rightful owner, Beth Richards, her dorm mate at Tarble, she learns that Beth disappeared two days earlier, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence as to her whereabouts.

Consumed by the mystery of the missing girl and the contents of the luggage-a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the book on which Ruby based her senior thesis, and which she believes instigated her madness-she sets out to uncover the truth, not only about Beth Richards's past but also her own. In doing so, Ruby is forced to reexamine the people from her past: the professor who whisked her away to New Orleans and then shattered her heart and the ghosts of dead women writers who beckoned her to join their illustrious group. And when Ruby's storyline converges with Beth's in a way she never imagined, she returns to the one place she swore she never would: her alma mater.

What I Liked: I really enjoyed all the literary references in this book. I love reading books that cleverly reference other great books and authors and this one references Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath amongst several others, which made for interesting reading and are a special treat for book lovers, in general. 

Plus, there are gorgeous depictions of New Orleans! Written beautifully, the words bring the city alive. 

That apart, the mystery in this book- Beth Richards' abduction- is pretty well done. The layers around why Beth is missing are revealed gradually and that makes the book interesting. Also, the connection between Beth and Ruby- apart from the suitcase- is revealed gradually, which is always nice. 

Ruby overcoming her fears and her past and facing up to all of that is also heartening and well done. It is not like she is a raging heroine, but she does it slowly, sometimes reluctantly, but she does manage to overcome her fears and her past. 

What I Didn't Like: The actual 'butterfly sister' is not really mentioned or in the picture up until 2/3rds of the the book or even more, actually. This person is not really shown or connected to the characters in Tarble College. However, this person is just sprung upon the reader almost towards the end of the book, which, on the one hand may be interesting but the other hand, it is quite lame. 

I mean, a good mystery book or movie should leave little breadcrumbs that will help the reader or viewer form clever little hypotheses about who the bad guy/girl really is. Too many breadcrumbs ruins the experience, whereas, too few breadcrumbs makes the sudden reveal of the bad guy/girl seem, well, too sudden and out-of-nowhere. The latter is the case in this book. 

Will You Like It?: If you enjoy the journey more than the destination, then this is a good book for you. Also, the literary references are well done and if you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy this book as well. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

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