The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante
Bloomsbury; April 2008; 304 pp; $16.95 HC
Core Audience: Girls 14+ and adult crossover readers
Strengths: Timely subject, amazingly perceptive writing, and unflinching honesty
If you haven’t yet read this book personally, move it up your pile, because this is one of the best reads I’ve chewed through this year. This book is timely in that it centers on two girls being raised in a fundamentalist religious cult, but this book completely steers clear of sensationalism. It’s told in alternating voices of two childhood friends: one girl who now buys the party line, and the other who chafes under it like a wet wool blanket. It is an amazing piece of writing about finding one’s voice, conformity, the nature of family, identity during adolescence, and it has a satisfying and redemptive ending. There were a couple of harrowing moments in the reading where I was so emotionally invested that I had a hard time remembering that I was not actually in the book. The unflinching honesty probably comes from the fact that the author herself was raised in a cult, and has had many years to come to terms with her family’s experience. (The first draft of the book was a memoir which was deemed too dark for sale.) Because of the topic, many folks may need a handsell on this book, but they will not be disappointed. This is a great one for mother-daughter book clubs, and will offer much fodder for discussion.
BONUS: This book will raise may questions about the nature of fiction and memoir for readers, and Cecilia Galante has put some substantial thought into her website where she thoughtfully answers the questions readers often ask.