Monday, August 27, 2012

A Review of 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies' by Cecilia Galante

"Agnes and Honey have always been different, but the older they get, the more they are growing apart.  Born into Mount Blessing, a religious commune with stringent rules and guarded secrets, the girls are complete opposites of each other.  While Agnes has made it her life's purpose to become a saint, Honey wants to her as far away from the commune as possible.  When Agnes's grandmother Nana Pete unexpectedly visits, she discovers one of the commune's most sinister secrets.  Fearing for their safety, Nana Pete takes the girls and flees Mount Blessing.

During their journey from the commune toward what Honey hopes will be a normal life, the girls test the bonds of their lifelong friendship, and Agnes struggles to hang on to the life she had.  Only when the biggest-- and most dangerous-- lie is finally unearthed does Agnes realize she must find the courage to make her own future.

This stunning debut novel, inspired by the author's own experiences, is a powerful tale of faith, friendship, and the true meaning of love."

After finishing this book, I am a little bit speechless.  It's been a while since I read a book that I can relate to so well and yet still get so angry at.  It was really difficult to make a choice regarding which "side" I was on: Honey's or Agnes's.  I hated how far-gone Agnes was, delving into the extremes of Christianity.  Whenever someone tried to talk a little sense (and by that, I do not mean convert) into her, she shut her ears and refused to listen, following the antics of a seven-year-old.  I have no problem reading books about religion, but this was one book that got my heart racing, I was so scared.  The word that comes to mind when I think of Mount Blessing is, "cult."  One person was telling everyone at the commune how to think. It was absolutely frightening for me to read about this and the author did such a great job of going into detail and not holding anything back.

I didn't completely agree with Honey either, though I could relate more to her than I could to Agnes.  For a while, it was really hard to tell whether or not she actually believed in God, the way she was talking to Agnes.  I've come to the conclusion that she is just a less extreme Christian.  She was enjoying herself immensely when they went to a Baptist service.  I appreciated her attempts to reverse Agnes's brainwashing (though, maybe instead of "brainwashing," we could say "upbringing").

I will also say that I loved that this Young Adult book did not contain a love triangle.  Finally!  It's absolutely possible!  This made this book quite refreshing, even if it is about four years old.

Nana Pete was such a powerful character.  I admire her to the ends of the earth for bringing her grandchildren out of the situation they were in.  It was very gutsy to take her grandchildren away from their parents without their permission (even then permission of one of her grandchildren) and just leave.

The most powerful thing in this book, in my opinion, is that you do not have to lead a perfect life in order to follow God or whomever you believe in.  You don't have to be as extreme as Agnes was.  You can still live a free life.  I think you could even go so far as to say you need only be a decent human being.  You do not have to do this in the name of a higher power, but if that helps you, that's fine.  You do not need to prove your goodness.  If you are good, you are good.  Any higher power will be able to see this.

Overall, this book was very eye-opening and it was nice to get two perspectives.  I think just about everything about this book worked for this story.  It's a beautiful debut novel by Cecilia Galante.

I give 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies':
Thanks for Reading!


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