Stop what you are doing and go pick up this book. The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe was just the book I needed to get out of my reading slump and I have been recommending it to everyone I know. I have a personal connection to the story of the monarch butterfly’s migration, but this is a story that many people will identify with.
Luz Avila’s mother abandoned her as a child and she was raised by her Abuela. Now that she is in her twenties, Luz takes care of her grandmother. She works a factory job, dreaming of the day she will be able to go back to school. But the job pays the bills and lets her grandmother live life relatively worry-free. But when Abuela suddenly announces that she wants to take Luz home, to visit their family in Mexico, it breaks Luz’s heart to have to say no. She promises that they will go one day, after they save the money and pay off a few more bills. Abuela dies before plans can be made, and Luz is plagued with regret. Then she wakes up a few days after the funeral and sees an out-of-season monarch butterfly in the garden that her abuela so loved. It’s a sign, and Luz takes it to heart. For the first time in her life, she throws caution to the wind and lives life spontaneously. In a few short days she is in an old, beat-up VW bug on her way from Milwaukee to Mexico. She carries Abuela’s ashes with her, planning to scatter them in the monarch sanctuaries near her family’s ancestral home in Angangueo, Mexico.
This is a quest story, a journey, both spiritually and physically. Along the way Luz meets women who leave an imprint on her life and her heart, changing the way she looks at the world. Each woman alters the flight path a little more, but they all enrich Luz’s life. And when her mother reappears in her life, Luz must decide which way to fly.
As a monarchaholic, I know this book would affect me deeply. But I also believe the casual reader will find themselves immersed in the tale of the monarch butterfly. And the descriptions! Oh, the language in this book! I’ve been to Angangueo, to the sanctuaries, and I’ve visited Alternare in Michoacan. Reading The Butterfly’s Daughter transported me back to the dusty dirt roads high in the Transvolcanic Mountains. I could smell the fresh blue corn tortillas and hear the sound the butterfly wings beating in the blue sky. The language of the Purepuchuan people rings in my ears even now. (Read about my time in Michoacan). Monroe traveled to the sanctuaries with Monarchs Across Georgia, a group very similar to my beloved Monarch Teacher Network, and the authenticity of her book speaks volumes about that trip. I could not put the book down.
Highly, highly recommended. Published for adults, but with definitely crossover YA appeal.
*copy purchased by me