The Butterfly Garden is a novel that caught me by surprise — I wasn’t expecting such an engaging read and had a difficult time setting it down. About a group of kidnapped women who are marked with elaborate tattoos of butterflies on their backs and kept in a secluded habitat by their captor, “The Gardner,” it’s an incredibly powerful story about choices, survival, and the damage we do to each other.
I found the way this story was revealed to be quite fascinating. Ordinarily I would have expected to “wake up” with one of the characters having just been kidnapped, seeing everything through her eyes as she learns just what is in store. Instead Hutchison begins with the ending, a captive girl being interviewed by the FBI after the place has been discovered. The narrative transitions back and forth between the interview and her first person experiences as she shares with them the bulk of the story. It’s a little jarring at first but opens up the story in a way I’m not sure it could have been told otherwise.
But this novel’s crowning jewel is its characters. The women, the captors, even the agents, they all feel real and breathe with a vivid life of their own. And Maya is as memorable as Steig Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander.
Please know this novel includes difficult themes from repeated forced rape to murder to all sorts of delectable atrocities. Despite the harshness, it never felt gratuitous but was handled quite delicately.
One I won’t soon be forgetting, this has easily climbed up onto the list of my top reads for 2016. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Thomas & Mercer for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my opinions.