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The Butterfly Cabinet    by Bernie McGill order for
Butterfly Cabinet
by Bernie McGill
Order:  USA  Can
Free Press, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

The death of four-year-old Charlotte, found tied up in a closet where her mother Harriet had left her for a punishment, is the pivot around which this story turns. Sent to prison for a year, Harriet writes a diary, which is later found by Maddie, a servant of Harriet and her family. Much later, as Maddie hands the unread diary over to Anna, granddaughter to Harriet, she unlocks many secrets.

This is a strange story because the characters seem so distant from each other. We get a sense of abiding attraction between Harriet and her husband, but at the same time not only are their day-to-day lives completely separate, but there is little evidence of them as ever being together, except for the family they produce, a pack of boys and one girl. It is hard to imagine a father ignoring a house full of boys as he does. Maddie's struggle is more palpable, but even her troubles seem distant. Perhaps this comes about because we are getting the story indirectly - through Harriet's diary and Maddie's reflections years later.

Nevertheless the author has done a good job getting inside of both characters. How Harriet comes to terms with the loss she has suffered and how Maddie is able finally to confront her actions in a way that will give Anna the best understanding of her heritage makes for a very interesting read.

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