The Butterfly Sister

By Amy Gail Hansen
Published on August 6th 2013
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher
"My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on that particular October evening, it literally arrived at my doorstep."

Eight months after dropping out of Tarble, an all-women's college, twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is still haunted by the memories of her senior year-a year marred by an affair with her English professor and a deep depression that not only caused her to question her own sanity but prompted a failed suicide attempt.

And then a mysterious paisley print suitcase arrives, bearing Ruby's name and address on the tag. When Ruby tries to return the luggage to its rightful owner, Beth Richards, her dorm mate at Tarble, she learns that Beth disappeared two days earlier, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence as to her whereabouts.

Consumed by the mystery of the missing girl and the contents of the luggage-a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the book on which Ruby based her senior thesis, and which she believes instigated her madness-she sets out to uncover the truth, not only about Beth Richards's past but also her own. In doing so, Ruby is forced to reexamine the people from her past: the professor who whisked her away to New Orleans and then shattered her heart and the ghosts of dead women writers who beckoned her to join their illustrious group. And when Ruby's storyline converges with Beth's in a way she never imagined, she returns to the one place she swore she never would: her alma mater.

Wow! If you're looking for a slightly romantic thrill ride that makes you question your own sanity, let alone the characters, then this is the book for you!

I can hardly believe this is Hansen's debut novel, as the writing style is so spectacular. (Not that debut authors aren't capable of spectacular novels, but as with any case, everything gets better with practice, and this seems so seasoned already!) It's safe to assume that I'll be checking out any of Hansen's future work.

Ruby Rousseau is haunted by her past - an affair with her English professor, her father's death, seeing the ghosts of her favorite writers, and finally a depression leading to a failed suicide attempt. She's trying to put it all behind her. She just wants to forget, but it was always there, just threatening to rear it's ugly head. And, one day, it packed itself up in a neat little suitcase and showed up at her front door.

Beth Richards suitcase brought back all her emotions and fears, full force. Ruby's name had been on the tag and it was delivered to her by mistake... or was it? Beth is missing, and Ruby has been drawn into a confrontation with everything she's tried to suppress and forget for the past eight months. When she sees the copy of A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf in the suitcase, the very book on which she wrote her senior thesis before her downfall, she can't help but be consumed to uncover the mystery surrounding her missing classmate and face the truth of her past.

One can immediately tell Hansen loves and is familiar with the locations she's written about simply by the beyond detailed prose. It's like her words are wrapped up with a fond affection and it comes through in her descriptions. Her characters seem like friends, whose story needs to be told. Her style is eerie, and drew me in completely. When I was forced to take a break from reading (I'm a mother of 3 after all), I found myself taking a minute or two to shake away the cobwebs and come back to my reality. Ruby's confusion had become my own. I questioned what she questioned. And for the first three quarters of the book, it builds, twists, and turns, until you're finally spinning on a dizzying downward spiral of truth and realizations toward the end. The last quarter of the book is impossible to stop reading, so be forewarned and warn anybody who may try to interrupt you.

Truly one of the best books of 2013!

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