Luz Avila's mother abandoned her when she was a very young child to be raised by her grandmother, who she calls Abuela. When Luz is a grown woman, Abuela insists on making a trip to her home village, Angangueo, in Mexico, where the monarch butterflies migrate each year, but Luz is reluctant to interrupt her life. Abuela dies before they can make the trip, and Luz, tormented by regrets, decides to make the journey with Abuela's ashes, driving from Milwaukee to Mexico, following the path of the butterflies. Along the way, Luz meets extraordinary women who transform her: a tough but gentle young girl scarred by life; a free-spirited wanderer; a prim and proper woman who has lost opportunities. Arriving in San Antonio, Tex., to find her aunt, Luz meets her mother, who she had always believed dead. Now Luz must face her mother's reappearance in her life and get her grandmother's ashes to Mexico for the Day of the Dead. Monroe (Time Is a River) has succeeded, in her third novel, in taking a straightforward coming-of-age story and adding a Mexican twist to it, but the characters are stock and the outcome predictable, though readers who take comfort in knowing what comes next will not be disappointed. (May)
From the Publisher
"Monroe, known for her environmental fiction (The Beach House; Sweetgrass), skillfully incorporates lore about the monarch butterflies into a rich novel about generations and tradition. This book, filled with unusual female characters, is highly recommended for book clubs and readers of women's fiction."
- Library Journal
“In The Butterfly’s Daughter, Mary Alice Monroe gives us a novel that, like the monarch butterfly, has a plentitude of beauty and wonder. Luz Avila is a character we cheer on as she makes her journey from Wisconsin to Mexico and, equally, toward knowledge and forgiveness.”
—Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Serena
Esperanza Avila worries about her 21-year-old granddaughter. Luz doesn't know her family traditions, doesn't speak her native Spanish, and is trapped in a foundry job in Milwaukee. After Luz's mother disappeared, the abuela raised the girl on Aztec myths along with stories of the monarch butterflies in the mountains of Mexico. One phone call changes everything. Esperanza buys a VW and tells Luz they must drive to her home village by November 1, the Day of the Dead, to be there when the migrating monarchs return. But her death leaves Luz to make the pilgrimage alone. Following the path of the butterflies, she finds herself on a journey of discovery, seeking her inner courage and the secrets of a vanished mother. VERDICT Monroe, known for her environmental fiction (The Beach House; Sweetgrass), skillfully incorporates lore about the monarch butterflies into a rich novel about generations and tradition. This book, filled with unusual female characters, is highly recommended for book clubs and readers of women's fiction. [Author tour; feature title at ALA.]—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ
A young woman follows the path of the monarch butterflies in their autumnal migration to Mexico.
Luz Avila, a factory worker in Milwaukee, lives with her Abuela (grandmother) Esperanza. Abuela raised her when her mother Mariposa, named after the monarch butterflies Abuela loves, disappeared. Both Abuela and Luz believe Mariposa died long ago. But when Abuela receives an unsettling phone call from her other daughter in Texas, she plans a trip to Mexico with Luz, to visit the mountain sanctuary where monarch butterflies are already beginning to trickle in from their northern feeding and mating grounds. It is an Avila family tradition for mothers and daughters to visit a precipice overlooking the canyon groves where the monarchs gather en masse, and to recall the Aztec goddess who sacrificed herself so that creation could begin. After Abuela's sudden death from a heart attack, Luz vows to make the trip on her own. Ignoring warnings from her mechanic boyfriend Sully, Luz drives away in her grandmother's rusted Volkswagen with a cardboard box containing Abuela's ashes in the backseat. After her car dies in Chicago, Luz works at a taqueria to pay for repairs, then continues her journey, this time with a very pregnant new friend, Ofelia, who's fleeing her abusive lover, and Ofelia's chihuahua Serena. There's a stop in Kansas where Ofelia is taken in by her former employers at a nursery, and Luz meets a field entomologist, Billy, who teaches her how to tag monarchs. Luz continues on her journey, now accompanied by Margaret, a buttoned-down botanist who wants to escape her stultifying life. The POV shifts abruptly to Mariposa, alive after all and slowly recovering from multiple addictions and a vaguely unsavory past with the help of a Native American equestrian healer. She is agonizing over why a message left for her mother in Milwaukee has gone unanswered. Slowed by a plethora of preachy maxims, the story creeps to a predictable close.
The butterflies are the most colorful characters here.