Butterfly
by Sharon Sala, contemporary (2000)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-616-2


Bring out the violins and mourning clothes. Christmas is near, and it's time for some poor lil' match girl to suffer, suffer, suffer, suffer, and then suffer some more for the sake of us weeping our hearts out. Then - ah! (play some uplifting music here, such as Yanni) - here comes Prince Charming driving down the road in his Rolls Royce! Our heroine, freezing and near death, struggles towards the car.

"Please, sir... buy a match?"

Wham! Oops, another Christmas roadkill.

Sorry, no, no, no, the heroine never dies in Butterfly, she does get tortured by fate and circumstances enough to make us feel good about our Christmas though. Your children are squabbling, your husband is hogging the TV while you do the housework to death, your mom is screeching over the phone? Well, no, I doubt Mel Gibson would come by and whisk you away for an eternity of multiple orgasms, but reading Butterfly may make you feel good about your PMS.

China Brown - aauw, even the name hints of fragility - is a poster girl for social reform. As a child, her father treats her like the new punching bag at home. Today, she is pregnant, unwed, her lover AWOL. Poverty-stricken, she gets kicked out of her meagre hovel of a house and falls flat on her face in the snow. Oh! While stumbling her way to some mission house, she witnesses a murder. Oh dear.

Wait, there's more. She gets shot in the stomach and her baby gets killed. Then she falls into a coma.

When she opens her eyes, she sees the handsome face of Detective Ben English, who, while gazing upon our heroine's fragile comatose state, falls for her and vows to avenge her (not so hard, really, as he's investigating the murder.)

"Come my love, let me take you to my perfect house and warm you by my perfect fireside! Our perfect naked bodies can meld together in a beautiful merging of souls as well as body, and we can live a perfect life where I will pamper you, protect you, and cherish you!"

"No! I'm not worthy! I'm ugly! I'm ruined! I'm - I'm - hold me, Ben! Protect me from reality!"

The murder case is interesting, since I have no idea who the killer is and I am kept guessing, but oh my, while I wouldn't mind a Ben English for Christmas (every woman deserves to be put on a pedestal if only for a day, I always say), China Brown is one of the most passive heroines I've ever met! Sure, traumatized people like her will be afraid to act or even move, that I can believe, but since this is fiction, can we not have China at least doing something without having Ben, his mother, and the entire world rushing to make sure she doesn't break a fingernail?

Frankly, Butterfly is a story that is as sincere as a weeping alligator. It blatantly attempts to manipulate me into weeping by piling angst upon angst for the heroine, all the while enveloping her in some china doll fragility aura that makes her as adult as a fifteen-year old girl. A heroine without will, ability, or even initiative, existing solely as a fantasy placeholder for the reader to experience what it feels like to be pamperized and cherished for life.

Well, okay. Makes a nice escape fantasy, if nothing else at least.

Rating: 42


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