Autobiographical Novel Analysis: Butterfly by Kathleen Sullivan McDonald
After years of biding her time in an unhappy and unfulfilling marriage, Bridget leaves her husband when her youngest child turns 18 and strikes out to find herself and her life’s purpose. Her lack of education and her hometown’s poor economy make it difficult for her, and she bounces from place to place until she eventually leaves her family behind in Scotland and finds herself in a beach town in Florida. She feels this is where she belongs, but her isolation from her family causes her to question herself at every turn.
One day, she gets a call that makes her drop everything and jump on the first plane back to Scotland. Her brother has had an accident and is not expected to live much longer. Thankfully, she arrives at his bedside in time to see him before he passes on. Shortly after his death, she notices a butterfly flitting down the hospital hallway. Bridget knows in her heart that the butterfly is a message from Patrick. Over the course of the next months and years, Bridget discovers that even when our loved ones die, they never really leave us. If we pay attention to the signs, they might even help us follow the path to who we are meant to be.
Butterfly by Kathleen Sullivan McDonald is a short but powerful novel that is based on the author’s life. Rather than being plot-driven, the book is primarily focused on Bridget’s thoughts, feelings, and growth as a person. Through the book structure, the author carefully crafts Bridget’s persona. The book opens with the fateful day she gets the phone call from home, and then it follows her as she reunites with her family and buries her brother. Then the reader is briefly taken back in time to let the reader in on the background of her life.
The greatest strength of the book is undoubtedly the writing style. The author has used words like a painter uses brushstrokes, and the result is a masterpiece. The language is lyrical and the imagery is exquisite. Bridget’s inner thoughts are worded in such a way that the reader can match her step for step in her journey toward self-discovery. Bridget has the soul of a poet. She is able to find beauty even in sadness, and she can freely trust and find comfort in things that defy logic and understanding. I think everyone could benefit from learning to think a bit more like Bridget.
The only downside to this novel is the lack of professional editing. I noticed dozens of errors, primarily with punctuation, which distracted from an otherwise beautiful story. I would have loved to give this book a perfect score, but unfortunately, I must rate it 3 out of 4 stars.
If you are looking for suspense or action-packed plotlines in your novels, Butterfly is not for you. If you love getting inside a character’s mind and heart, or if you appreciate beautifully constructed language, I suggest you give this book a try.
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