So I know I took a break from all this but I’m more or less back on a regular schedule (which includes me not sleeping much, being always tired, and sometimes sick, and basically just failing at things in life. Yay). It is so weird that I should pick up this book of all books when my life is slightly effed up. But I did. And man, it was so disturbing and awesome, I can’t even.
So, yes. Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison.
Now, when I picked up this one, I knew it was supposed to be a psych thriller. That’s part of the reason why I chose this book this week. I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently and I felt like I needed to prod the dark side a little before I turn into sugar confetti and rainbow tassels. But I did NOT expect it to make me want to throw up my meals and curl up in a ball on my bed and never go out because the world is so cruel. Clearly, I should never be allowed to make decisions anymore.
Anyway, back to the book. Here’s a brief summary (as spoiler free as possible):
The book starts with FBI agent Victor Hanoverian waiting outside an interrogation room, looking at their suspect/victim who is a young and beautiful girl, covered in quite a lot of bandages. He and his partner then proceed to interrogate the girl and we learn that she is one of the survivors of a rescue mission which involved some kind of secret place, a man and a bunch of young girls. We later learn that this place is called The Garden and the man is called The Gardener by his captives. This man kidnaps girls (usually around the age of 16), and brands them with butterfly wings. He re-christens them and rapes them for the first time when their tattoo wings are done and then they become part of his personal Garden/Harem. They become his butterflies. On their 21st birthdays, these butterflies face a fate that is so much worse than death. His son Avery is another weird psycho who hurts the girls in the Garden and finds pleasure in it. A Christian Grey with a very, very mean streak, if you will.
So this girl, the butterfly Maya, aka Inara Morrissey, becomes part of the garden at age 16, when she’s kidnapped on her way home by the Gardener. She’s had a bad childhood and is, in general, a mixture of extremely kind and sociopathic. She adapts to the garden quickly, not because she isn’t affected by it, but because she’s pragmatic and understands there isn’t much she can do in the situation. Soon she becomes a solid presence in the garden, one that supports and protects everyone else. Things slowly begin changing when the second son of the Gardener, Desmond, finds out about the Garden.
After some unspeakable and shudder-inducing events and a little bit of nausea, and you reach the part where the girls are finally rescued from the Garden. The story comes a full circle, and we land back with the interrogation.
Creepy, right? This is really nothing though. Because, as the book goes on, you see so much shit happening…and it’s all kinds of wrong and you want to tell yourself that this is just not possible, but you can’t. And the worst part is that there are so many cases in reality that come close to this fictitious story. And that’s what keeps me up at night.
Enough moping. Let’s get to the technicalities.
One of the best things about this book is that the writing style is absolutely gripping! I’ve read a lot of different styles in the past couple of months and I’ve been amazed at what the authors have been doing but to have such a delicate and balanced style in a story like this is just awesome, in my opinion. While reading, I was very disturbed at many points in the story. I put my phone down a lot of times and just didn’t want to pick it up. But the way the plot was woven coupled with the way the story was being told, they were like little hooks dragging me back towards the book. (Or like demons’ hands pulling me back into hell, but whatever analogy works). Also, the narrative shifts from first person to third person, the interrogation part being in first person. I’ve only recently started reading books that do that and I have to say, I’m always impressed when it happens. The best part though, is how easily the first person narrative could be conversational and yet, it was also a narrative. Kudos, you creepy and brilliant woman!
The story line isn’t exactly straight, but that’s to be expected, seeing as it is supposed to be a thriller. There isn’t much suspense it in, either. It’s more of a ‘oh-what- the-fuck-is-going-on-now’ feeling, and just the plain dread at what you might read, rather than that feeling of shock. There is only one big reveal, and that’s in the end.
Honestly, if you make it to that point without breaking down(which I did), that reveal will probably be the last straw and leave you a mess(which it did me).
Coming to the characters, my personal favourite is Lyonette. Maya was fine, but for some reason I just really love Lyonette. As is to be expected in a book like this, the characters are far from simple. And I really applaud Dot Hutchison on creating the Gardener. It’s always complex to write a villain, mostly because you sometimes start hating him while you write, and that makes you biased and the story stupid. And when the villain is someone like the Gardener, it is hard to remember that he is still a person and someone who actually thinks that whatever he is doing is right. It’s really, really hard to let him love and laugh like a normal person. But she did that. And that was amazing!
One more thing about the narrative that strikes me is it’s close-to-deadpan tone. That’s what makes it all so much more worse. It’s bad enough that you read about the horrors but then you read about them in this matter-of-fact tone and your insides just squirm because how much must it have taken for them to just accept their fate like that that at times?!?! It’s still a different perspective on people and I always enjoy that but I’ starting to wonder if it was worth all that nausea.
The end, despite everything, was more or less satisfying and left me with some hope for humanity. So all in all, it wasn’t all bad, I guess.
Like I’ve been saying throughout this post, this book is just another level of fucked up. If you’re faint-hearted or if you feel queasy and uncomfortable at things as simple as murder and rape, then this book is NOT for you. I would recommend that you stay off of it. Find something more chill, probably with less gardens. Try Cujo. It’s not so bad.
This book is absolutely wonderful, in a very screwed up and weird way. It will leave you suspicious of all those around you and you’ll be royally fucked up for a little while and you might have nightmares about pedophiles (totally did not happen with me. absolutely no. Definitely not). But it is also thought provoking in a very different way than usual. And I liked that. So if you’ve got the stomach for this kind of stuff, definitely give it a try, because why not. Otherwise, please don’t blame me if you end up having a stroke or something. You’ve been warned.