In the Time of Butterflies


Author: Julia Alvarez

Title: In the Time of Butterflies

Genre: Literary fiction, Historical fiction

Publication date: 1994

No. of pages: 352

Geographical setting: Dominican Republic

Time period: 1938-1960, 1994

Plot summary: November 25, 1960: The bodies of the three Maribal sisters are found beside their Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff off the north coast of the Dominican Republic, a tragic accident according to the military regime of dictator General Rafael Trujillo. However a fourth sister survives and lives to tell the story of her sisters’ resistance as Las Mariposas, revolutionaries and patriots who became martyrs for their cause of freedom. Across the decades, the voices of all four sisters speak about their loss of childhood, innocence and ultimately their lives.

Series: NA

Subject headings: Dominican Republic, Women Revolutionaries, Dictatorship, History

Appeal: character-centered, historical, political, atmospheric, bleak, haunting, insightful, thoughtful, descriptive, candid, compelling, lyrical, rotating first-person narratives

3 terms that best describe this book: character-centered, candid, compelling

3 relevant non-fiction works and authors:

The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo by Lauren Derby (Explores the cultural history of the Trujillo regime and the complex and complicit relationship the dictator and the Dominican pueblo)

Night by Elie Wiesel (A terrifying account of the horror’s of the Nazi death camp from a young Jewish boy who witnessed the death of his family)

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Follows the lives of 6 North Koreans over 15 years illustrating vividly what it means to live under the most repressive totalitarian regime today)

Interesting read for Spanish readers:

Vivas en su jardin by Dede Maribal (The account of the lone surviving Maribal sister, currently only available in Spanish text and audio)

3 relevant fiction works and authors:

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (A former “dew breaker” or torturer recalls his life, family, neighbors and victims as he tries to come to terms with his past; historical, rotating first-person narratives, insightful)

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (Descendants of decades old feud between a small, dying white community and a Native American reservation in North Dakota explore their shared history to solve the mystery behind the feud; insightful, rotating first-person narratives, compelling)

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (Three narratives of the ending days of General Trujillo’s regime; rotating first-person narratives, insightful, political)

by Denise Benson


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