Monday, December 31, 2018

In the Time of the Butterflies - Julia Alvarez ----------------- 3 Stars

I'm happy I selected and stuck with this book for a couple of reasons. First, it's not a book that I would normally read. While it does have a majestic looking cover (and great title), the subject of historical fiction/non-fiction (I'll explain below) about a group of sisters in mid-twentieth century Dominican Republic is not really my wheelhouse of interest. Second, while the book starts out quite slowly, it does really get rolling and interesting in the last third. Good for me for picking/sticking with it!

In the Time of the Butterflies is a fictional story based on real life events. The book follows the story of the four Mirabal sistes who worked to take down the autocratic ruler, Trujilo, who ruled over the Dominican Republic in the mid-1900s. The book is fictional, in that the dialogue and parts of the story are made up by the author, but much of the plot is based on real life occurrences.

As I referenced, the book really had a slow start. It followed a pattern of each chapter being told by a different sister from their perspective of the events going on as the story progressed. While it was nice to hear and appreciate the voices of the different personalities, it was a slow go for first half of the novel. Much of it was based on the history of the sisters; schooling, marriage, day to day tasks, etc. While it helped round out and get a better sense of each character, it was hard for me to be engaged with the daily life of a teenage/mid-20 year old woman in this different country.

As the novel moved into the final 100 pages, it became more interesting. As the power of the dictator was running out, and the sisters were more active in finding ways to attempt to "free" the country, the drama was heightened. From what I can gather, the author did an excellent job of following the real life events while adding her own descriptions to the likely conversations that would have taken place.

While I would never had chosen this book on my own, I really appreciated reading and learning about an area of world history I was unaware (especially so close to the US). After finishing, I spent even more time learning about these amazing sisters, their inspirational story, and the legacy they have left in the DR and throughout the world. While not the most exciting or engaging book I've read, it did have a certain charm to how it's told and became even more interesting after I learned about how accurate the story. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in learning about a part of lesser known history and/or you want to get out of your comfort zone of reading.

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