In the Time of the Butterflies
This book had been languishing on my shelf for years. I even put it on the Shelf of Doom last year (books I was going to read, or else! but which ended up being books that just sat on the shelves like all the rest). I knew it would be good (it was), but I also had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be a total downer (it wasn’t, although the real-life story behind it kinda is), which is why I kept putting it off. Bad reasoning, because this is totally worth reading sooner rather than later.
The four Mirabal sisters…Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and Maria Teresa (I think that’s the correct birth order, although I’m not 100% sure)…all grow up and get married (I never could keep all the husbands straight) and have kiddies (and I’d totally mess up the kids if I tried) and gradually they all become involved in revolutionary politics. Because this is the Dominican Republic in the 1950s and Trujillo is the big (and stinky) cheese.
With the exception of Dedé and her husband, they are all arrested and jailed. And although the women are eventually released, the men remain in prison. It is on one of their trips to visit their husbands that Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa are ambushed and killed. And then they become revolutionary heroes, because everyone knew that Trujillo arranged for their murders. (And no, I am not spoiling the book…we know this happens from the get-go.)
And that’s all a true story. But Alvarez goes beyond the facts and envisions their childhood, years away at school, their romances and marriages and relationships. She brings the Mirabal sisters to life and gives each of them the chance to narrate part of their stories. We read of Patria’s faith and her increasing doubts, Minerva’s fervent desire to be a lawyer and her outspokenness, Dedé’s reluctance to get involved and her survivor’s guilt, and Maria Teresa’s diary entries, which evolve from childish observations to her brutal prison experience.
Image from friendswelove.com…click for link.
This is a beautifully told story of four very different sisters who all end up being La Mariposa (butterfly), the revolutionary code name they all shared. It is a glimpse into their lives under an oppressive dictator and their hopes for a better future for themselves, their families, and all Dominicans.