Friday, June 21, 2019

Book Review: "The Butterfly Girl" by Rene Denfeld

Naomi Cottle is a child finder. She's often the investigator desperate parents turn to when they have no other avenue left to try and find their missing children, and Naomi succeeds where others have failed. But this responsibility takes a great emotional toll on her.

Naomi can find missing children because once she, too, was a missing child. But she was lucky and was able to escape from the person who had kept her captive, although she had to flee without her sister. Sadly, she had no memories of that time, and all these years later, she can barely remember anything about her sister except vague memories of a field she ran through as she escaped. She is haunted by the fact that she didn't keep her promise to protect her sister.

A year ago, Naomi decided not to take any new cases until she finds her sister. Her search takes her to Portland, Oregon, where homeless teenagers roam the streets by day and night, doing whatever they can to survive. Someone has been kidnapping young girls off the streets, and many are found dead later, floating in the river. Naomi is troubled by this epidemic of violence, and even though she doesn't want to get involved, she can't turn away, especially as she wonders what parallels these kidnappings and murders might have with her sister's case.

When Naomi meets Celia, a troubled 12-year-old who took to the streets after a horrible family situation took a bad turn, she recognizes some similarities with her own life, and she wants to protect Celia like she was unable to do her own sister. And Celia also has a sister to protect. The only thing helping Celia through her ordeal are the butterflies—the beautiful phantoms she sees on the streets, following her and keeping her company. They remind her of a happier time with her mother and her sister, and she wishes she could just fly away like they do.

As Naomi digs deeper into her sister's whereabouts, and Celia tries to right her situation and protect her own sister, they both find themselves being drawn deeper and deeper into an evil web, a web that has the potential to destroy all they love—as well as themselves.

The Butterfly Girl is a beautifully written book about those who are lost and desperate to be found, as well as those who are seen but still feel lost. It's a story about feeling powerless to change situations around you, no matter how hard you fight, and how easy it is to shut others out as you fight your battles. It's also a troubling story of how so many children on the margins can find themselves at risk, with no one to advocate for or protect them.

Rene Denfeld's first two books, The Enchanted and The Child Finder (in which Naomi's character was introduced) were emotional, gorgeously told stories. While The Butterfly Girl started a bit slowly for me, it picked up steam as the book went along, and there is so much poignancy and vivid imagery in this story.

Even though this features the same character from The Child Finder, you could read this book without reading its predecessor. But I'd definitely recommend that you pick that one up, because once again, Denfeld's talent with prose and imagery is something to behold.

This book definitely made me think, and it made me sad for those who have to fight these battles. It once again proves what an amazing storyteller Denfeld is.

NetGalley and HarperCollins provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

This book will be published October 1, 2019.

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