1994 - In the Time of the Butterflies
When I was searching for a book from 1994, I was so pleased to find a title by Julia Alvarez that I hadn't yet read. She is a writer with a beautiful, vivid, undeniably feminine point of view. I had to read How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents for school; I read it twice because I loved it so much. I flew through In the Time of the Butterflies with similar ferocity. It left me hungry for more of her work.
"Brimming with warmth and vitality, this new novel by theauthor ofHow theGarcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) is a paean to thepower offemale courage. The butterfliesare four smart and lovely Dominican sisters growing up during Trujillo's despotic regime. While her parents try desperately to cling to their imagined island ofsecurity ina swelling sea offear and intimidation, Minerva Mirabal -- thesharpest and boldest of thedaughters, born with a fierce will to fight injustice -- jumps headfirst into therevolutionary tide. Her sisters come upon their courage more gradually, through a passionate, protective love offamily or through thesheer impossibility ofclosing their eyes to thehorrors around them. Together, their bravery and determination meld into a seemingly insurmountable force, making Trujillo, for all his power, appear a puny adversary. Alvarez writes beautifully, whether creating theten-year-old Maria Teresa's charming diary entries or describing Minerva's trip home after her first unsettling confrontation with Trujillo: "As theroad darkened, thebeams ofour headlights filled with hundreds ofblinded moths. Where they hit thewindshield, they left blurry marks, until it seemed like I was looking at theworld through a curtain oftears." If theMirabal sisters are iron-winged butterflies , their men -- father and husbands -- often resemble those blinded moths, feeble and fallible. Still, thewomen view them with kind, forgiving eyes, and though there's no question ofwhich sex is being celebrated here, a sweet and accepting spirit toward frailty, if not human cruelty, prevails. This is not Garcia Márquez or Allende territory (no green hair or floating bodies); Alvarez's voice is her own, grounded inrealism yet alive with themagic ofeveryday human beings who summon extraordinary courage and determination to fight for their beliefs. As mesmerizing as theMirabal sisters themselves." (Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1994)
The tone and structure of this book are quite similar to Dreaming in Cuban, though Alvarez doesn't stray into magical realism territory. Other similar books I would recommend:
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Keep turning the page (even if you have to do it quickly),