Butterfly's Child

Angela Davis-Gardner, Author
Angela Davis-Gardner, Dial, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-34094-6
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Open Ebook - 267 pages - 978-0-679-60458-7
Paperback - 363 pages - 978-0-385-34095-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4618-2545-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-18271-4
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Immediately engaging, this quiet and measured sequel to Puccini's Madame Butterfly begins with the dramatic détente of Puccini's opera: Cio-Cio-san (Butterfly) kills herself when Pinkerton, the father of her son, Benji, returns with an American wife after four years away. Benji then travels with his father and stepmother to flat central Illinois, the polar opposite of Japan, to begin a life of hard farm labor, becoming an outsider within his family and community. Though Davis-Garner (Plum Wine) inherited her characters, they are complex, dimensional beings in her hands. There are no stock villains, perfect heroes, or tragic victims; as Benji grows up and we follow his journey in search of the family, descended from samurai, that supposedly awaits his return to Japan, the author traces the sad descent of Benji's stepmother into madness and father into alcoholism, without being trite or moralistic. Though some of the tension drains from the plot in the book's middle, Davis-Gardner reaps most of the dramatic benefits of Puccini's plot while simultaneously creating an unrushed meditation on character. (Apr.)
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