Review: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

4 Stars

Inside a mansion is a hidden garden.  In this hidden garden there is beauty all around, especially the butterflies.  But these aren’t ordinary butterflies.  The Gardener has specially picked each and every one of them for their youth and their beauty.  He gave each one of them their name and their wings.  These butterflies are the young women that he has kidnapped to build his collection.  Each woman was taken for her unique beauty and each one was tattooed with intricate butterfly wings on her back.  To add to this horror, each butterfly has an expiration date.  On the day the butterfly turns twenty one, she disappears only to reappear inside a display case, sealed in glass and resin.  She joins the Gardener’s permanent collection.

The garden is now destroyed and the police and FBI are trying to put together the pieces to this story.  They have one of the butterflies in their interrogation room and they aren’t sure if she was complicit with the Gardener or if she is truly one of his victims.  The woman known as Maya is a tough nut to crack.  The other girls won’t talk to the FBI or police unless they speak to Maya first.  Is she truly a victim or is she part of the Gardener’s sick collection?  The story of the garden unfolds during a series of interviews.  They learn that Maya isn’t her real name and the name that she gives them doesn’t truly exist either.  Just who is this woman?  Victim or accomplice?

The story that unwinds is beyond their imagination.  The lengths that the Gardener will go to keep his butterflies is incredible.  He believes he’s doing something useful, something beautiful.  And for all his brutality, he truly believes that he loves his butterflies and that they love him too.  He has gone to great lengths to keep his garden and his butterflies secret.  The scale and scope are almost unbelievable, but there is still that shiver that goes down your spine that tells you that this could happen.

This book surprised me.  I really didn’t know what I was going to be getting myself into after reading the description.  I knew that it sounded interesting, but I really wasn’t prepared for where this story went and how all the individual stories were bound together in this intricate web.  These women are more than their butterfly wings, more than just some sick man’s obsession.  Each woman has a story, an identity and a way that she deals with the horror that faces her everyday.  What would you do if you knew your expiration date?  What would you do if you were held in a gilded cage?

I’m always a little leery of anything in the horror genre.  I’m a wimp.  I’m prone to nightmares when things get too graphic or gory.  That wasn’t the case with this book.  While it is fairly graphic, there are still many things that are left to the readers imagination and the violence wasn’t’ overdone to the point where it became campy or a gore fest.  I would definitely recommend this to fans of the genre that want a little more realism and a little less gore and gratuitous nudity and sex.  Definitely led me to question what I would do in this situation?  Would I be someone like Maya?

 

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