The Memory of Butterflies, by Grace Greene
Publication: Lake Union Publishing; September 5, 2017
About the book:
Hannah Cooper’s daughter is leaving for college soon. The change is bittersweet. A single mother since the age of eighteen, Hannah isn’t eager to confront the pain of being alone, but she’s determined not to let her own hang-ups keep Ellen from the future she deserves. As Ellen’s high school graduation approaches, Hannah decides it’s time to return to her roots in Cooper’s Hollow along Virginia’s beautiful and rustic Cub Creek.
With the help of longtime friend Roger Westray, Hannah devotes her energies to building a new house on the site of the old family home, destroyed in a fire more than a decade ago. But Hannah’s entire adult life has revolved around one very big secret. And her new beginning comes with unanticipated risks that will cost her far more than she could have imagined—perhaps more than she can survive.
When a confrontation forces Hannah to expose her secret, the truth may destroy her beloved daughter. Hannah is prepared to sacrifice everything to protect her family, but can their lives and their bond withstand the seismic shift that’s coming?
Being a Virginia girl myself, I was really excited to read Grace Greene’s The Memory of Butterflies. This novel is about Hannah, her daughter Ellen, and the secrets of Hannah’s past. Ellen is getting ready to graduate from high school and Hannah has decided to rebuild at the sight of her family’s old home place, where they lost their home to a fire several years earlier. In the midst of Ellen growing up, graduating, and preparing for college – coupled with Hannah starting construction on the house back in Cub Creek, the past starts creeping back in. Hannah is faced with decisions about being honest with her daughter and the people that she has known for some long, or keeping her family’s secrets.
Let me begin by saying that this novel was nothing like I expected. The main “twist” and the secrets that Hannah has held onto for so long, were a complete surprise to me. Moreover, in some ways, I understand the decisions that she made, but in other ways, it was incredibly disturbing. Hannah was relatable to me based on her extremely close relationship with her grandparents, but otherwise, I struggled to invest in her. Have you ever read a character that was just too plain, too peaceful, too quiet, etc? Hannah completely lacked spirit, which was somewhat understandable based on her past, but it was a real challenge to give two hoots about her at all. Or perhaps this was the author’s intentions considering Hannah’s upbringing? A woman that had grown up in that area, with her grandparents, thinking they had nothing may very well be a very quiet and not exciting person.
I loved the spunk of Ellen, especially her intelligence, compassion, and ability to read others at such a young age. Roger, like Hannah, was somewhat “blah” to me, and regarding Liam, I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other. I did love the simplicity and love found within Hannah’s grandmother, especially the numerous things that reminded me of my own Mema. My grandparents didn’t go without, but they never spent more money than was necessary and were happy with a life void of frivolous purchases.
Despite my uninspired feelings about the main character, I found Greene’s writing beautiful, vivid, and it completely pulled me into the world of Cub Creek. I could see the old cabin where she did pottery, I could see Elk Ridge, I could smell the woodstove, and so on. I won’t add this to my top reads of the year, but fans of women’s fiction with a twist, especially set in a very simple setting should truly enjoy this novel.
*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.