In the Time of the Butterflies [NOOK Book]

Overview

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las ...
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In the Time of the Butterflies

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Overview

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republica in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
During the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, three young women, members of a conservative, pious Catholic family, who had become committed to the revolutionary overthrow of the regime, were ambushed and assassinated as they drove back from visiting their jailed husbands. Thus martyred, the Mirabal sisters have become mythical figures in their country, where they are known as las mariposas (the butterflies), from their underground code names. Herself a native of the Dominican Republic, Alvarez ( How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents ) has fictionalized their story in a narrative that starts slowly but builds to a gripping intensity. Each of the girls--Patria, Minerva and Maria Terese (Mate) Mirabal--speaks in her own voice, beginning in their girlhood in the 1940s; their surviving sister, Dede, frames the narrative with her own tale of suffering and dedication to their memory. To differentiate their personalities and the ways they came to acquire revolutionary fervor, Alvarez takes the risk of describing their early lives in leisurely detail, somewhat slowing the narrative momentum. In particular, the giddy, childish diary entries of Mate, the youngest, may seem irritatingly mundane at first, but in time Mate's heroism becomes the most moving of all, as the sisters endure the arrests of their husbands, their own imprisonment and the inexorable progress of Trujillo's revenge. Alvarez captures the terrorized atmosphere of a police state, in which people live under the sword of terrible fear and atrocities cannot be acknowledged. As the sisters' energetic fervor turns to anguish, Alvarez conveys their courage and their desperation, and the full import of their tragedy. 40,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo; reprint rights to NAL; 20-city author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Alvarez's award-winning first novel (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, LJ 5/1/91) is more than matched by her second. Butterflies is based on the lives of the four Mirabel sisters (code name: "Mariposas," that is, butterflies), three of whom were martyred in 1960 during the liberation of the Dominican Republic from the dictator Trujillo. Through the surviving sister, Ded, as well as memories of Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa, we discover the compelling forces behind each sister's role in the struggle for freedom. As Alvarez says "A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart." Though murder, torture, and imprisonment are ever-present, she wisely choses to focus on the personal lives of these young wives and mothers, full of love, beauty, and, especially, hope. Highly recommended for its luminescence and relevance.-Rebecca S. Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
The Dallas Morning News
"A fascinating and powerful picture of a family and a nation’s history." —The Dallas Morning News
People Magazine
"A gorgeous and sensitive novel . . . A compelling story of courage, patriotism and familial devotion." —People
The Denver Post
"Imagination and history in sublime combination . . . Read this book for the novel it is. Read this book for the place it takes you. Read this book and take courage." —The Denver Post
St. Petersburg Times
"A magnificent treasure for all cultures and all time." —St. Petersburg Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616200992
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 21,806
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Julia  Alvarez
Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. She is the author of six novels, two books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and eight books for children and young adults. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including a Latina Leader Award in Literature in 2007 from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the 2002 Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the
2000 Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s 1996 program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” A writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, Alvarez and her husband, Bill Eichner, established Alta Gracia, an organic coffee farm–literacy arts center, in her homeland, the Dominican Republic.

Biography

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City during her Dominican parents' "first and failed" stay in the United States. While she was still an infant, the family returned to the Dominican Republic -- where her father, a vehement opponent of the Trujillo dictatorship, resumed his activities with the resistance. In 1960, in fear for their safety, the Alvarezes fled the country, settling once more in New York.

Alvarez has often said that the immigrant experience was the crucible that turned her into a writer. Her struggle with the nuances of the English language made her deeply conscious of the power of words, and exposure to books and reading sharpened both her imagination and her storytelling skills. She graduated summa cum laude from Middlebury College in 1971, received her M.F.A. from Syracuse University, and spent the next two decades in the education field, traveling around the country with the poetry-in-the-schools program and teaching English and Creative Writing to elementary, high school, and college students.

Alvarez's verse began to appear in literary magazines and anthologies, and in 1984, she published her first poetry collection, Homecoming. She had less success marketing her novel -- a semiautobiographical story that traced the painful assimilation of a Dominican family over a period of more than 30 eventful years. A series of 15 interconnected stories that unfold in reverse chronological order, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents addresses, head-on, the obstacles and challenges immigrants face in adapting to life in a new country.

It took some time for "ethnic" literature to gain enough of a foothold in the literary establishment for Alvarez's agent, a tireless champion of minority authors, to find a publisher. But when the novel was released in 1991, it received strongly positive reviews. And so, at the tender age of 41, Alvarez became a star. Three years later, she proved herself more than a "one-hit wonder," when her second novel, In the Time of Butterflies was nominated for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. Since then, she has made her name as a writer of remarkable versatility, juggling novels, poetry, children's books, and nonfiction with equal grace and aplomb. She lives in Vermont, where she serves as a writer in residence at her alma mater, Middlebury College. In addition, she and her husband run a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic that hosts a school to teach the local farmers and their families how to read and write.

Good To Know

From 1975 until 1978, Alvarez served as Poet-in-the-Schools in Kentucky, Delaware, and North Carolina.

She has held positions as a professor of creative writing and English at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts (1979-81), the University of Vermont (1981-83), and the University of Illinois (1985-88).

In 1984, Alvarez was the Jenny McKean Moore Visiting Writer at George Washington University. Currently, she is a professor of English at Middlebury College.

She and her husband run a coffee farm, Alta Gracia, in the Dominican Republic.

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    1. Hometown:
      Middlebury, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 27, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Read an Excerpt

In the Time of Butterflies


By Julia Alvarez

Turtleback Books Distributed by Demco Media

Copyright ©1995 Julia Alvarez
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0606192069

Chapter One


Dedi


1994
and
circa 1943

She is plucking her bird of paradise of its dead branches, leaning around the plant every time she hears a car. The woman will never find the old house behind the hedge of towering hibiscus at the bend of the dirt road. Not a gringa dominicana in a rented car with a road map asking for street names! Dedi had taken the call over at the little museum this morning.

Could the woman please come over and talk to Dedi about the Mirabal sisters? She is originally from here but has lived many years in the States, for which she is sorry since her Spanish is not so good. The Mirabal sisters are not known there, for which she is also sorry for it is a crime that they should be forgotten, these unsung heroines of the underground, et cetera.

Oh dear, another one. Now after thirty-four years, the commemorations and interviews and presentations of posthumous honors have almost stopped, so that for months at a time Dedi is able to take up her own life again. But she's long since resigned herself to Novembers. Every year as the 25th rolls around, the television crews drive up. There's the obligatory interview. Then, the big celebration over at the museum, the delegations from as far away as Peru andParaguay, an ordeal really, making that many little party sandwiches and the nephews and nieces not always showing up in time to help. But this is March, !Marma Santmsima! Doesn't she have seven more months of anonymity?

"How about this afternoon? I do have a later commitment," Dedi lies to the voice. She has to. Otherwise, they go on and on, asking the most impertinent questions.

There is a veritable racket of gratitude on the other end, and Dedi has to smile at some of the imported nonsense of this woman's Spanish. "I am so compromised," she is saying, "by the openness of your warm manner."

"So if I'm coming from Santiago, I drive on past Salcedo?" the woman asks.

"Exactamente. And then where you see a great big anacahuita tree, you turn left."

"A ... great ... big ... tree ...," the woman repeats. She is writing all this down! "I turn left. What's the name of the street?"

"It's just the road by the anacahuita tree. We don't name them," Dedi says, driven to doodling to contain her impatience. On the back of an envelope left beside the museum phone, she has sketched an enormous tree, laden with flowers, the branches squirreling over the flap. "You see, most of the campesinos around here can't read, so it wouldn't do us any good to put names on the roads."

The voice laughs, embarrassed. "Of course. You must think I'm so outside of things." Tan afuera de la cosa.

Dedi bites her lip. "Not at all," she lies. "I'll see you this afternoon then."

"About what time?" the voice wants to know.

Oh yes. The gringos need a time. But there isn't a clock time for this kind of just-right moment. "Any time after three or three-thirty, four-ish."

"Dominican time, eh?" The woman laughs.

"!Exactamente!" Finally, the woman is getting the hang of how things are done here. Even after she has laid the receiver in its cradle, Dedi goes on elaborating the root system of her anacahuita tree, shading the branches, and then for the fun of it, opening and closing the flap of the envelope to watch the tree come apart and then back together again.


* * *

In the garden, Dedi is surprised to hear the radio in the outdoor kitchen announce that it is only three o'clock. She has been waiting expectantly since after lunch, tidying up the patch of garden this American woman will be able to see from the galerma. This is certainly one reason why Dedi shies from these interviews. Before she knows it, she is setting up her life as if it were an exhibit labeled neatly for those who can read: THE SISTER WHO SURVIVED.

Usually, if she works it right-a lemonade with lemons from the tree Patria planted, a quick tour of the house the girls grew up in-usually they leave, satisfied, without asking the prickly questions that have left Dedi lost in her memories for weeks at a time, searching for the answer. Why, they inevitably ask in one form or another, why are you the one who survived?

She bends to her special beauty, the butterfly orchid she smuggled back from Hawaii two years ago. For three years in a row Dedi has won a trip, the prize for making the most sales of anyone in her company Her niece Minou has noted more than once the irony of Dedi's "new" profession, actually embarked upon a decade ago, after her divorce. She is the company's top life insurance salesperson. Everyone wants to buy a policy from the woman who just missed being killed along with her three sisters. Can she help it?

The slamming of a car door startles Dedi. When she calms herself she finds she has snipped her prize butterfly orchid. She picks up the fallen blossom and trims the stem, wincing. Perhaps this is the only way to grieve the big things-in snippets, pinches, little sips of sadness.

But really, this woman should shut car doors with less violence. Spare an aging woman's nerves. And I'm not the only one, Dedi thinks. Any Dominican of a certain generation would have jumped at that gunshot sound.


* * *

She walks the woman quickly through the house, Mama's bedroom, mine and Patria's, but mostly mine since Patria married so young, Minerva and Marma Teresa's. The other bedroom she does not say was her father's after he and Mama stopped sleeping together. There are the three pictures of the girls, old favorites that are now emblazoned on the posters every November, making these once intimate snapshots seem too famous to be the sisters she knew.

Dedi has placed a silk orchid in a vase on the little table below them. She still feels guilty about not continuing Mama's tribute of a fresh blossom for the girls every day But the truth is, she doesn't have the time anymore, with a job, the museum, a household to run. You can't be a modern woman and insist on the old sentimentalities. And who was the fresh orchid for, anyway? Dedi looks up at those young faces, and she knows it is herself at that age she misses the most.

The interview woman stops before the portraits, and Dedi waits for her to ask which one was which or how old they were when these were taken, facts Dedi has at the ready, having delivered them so many times. But instead the thin waif of a woman asks, "And where are you?"

Dedi laughs uneasily It's as if the woman has read her mind. "I have this hallway just for the girls," she says. Over the woman's shoulder, she sees she has left the door to her room ajar, her nightgown flung with distressing abandon on her bed. She wishes she had gone through the house and shut the doors to the bedrooms.

"No, I mean, where are you in the sequence, the youngest, the oldest?"

So the woman has not read any of the articles or biographies around. Dedi is relieved. This means that they can spend the time talking about the simple facts that give Dedi the illusion that hers was just an ordinary family, too-birthdays and weddings and new babies, the peaks in that graph of normalcy.

Dedi goes through the sequence.

"So fast in age," the woman notes, using an awkward phrase.

Dedi nods. "The first three of us were born close, but in other ways, you see, we were so different."

"Oh?" the woman asks.

"Yes, so different. Minerva was always into her wrongs and rights." Dedi realizes she is speaking to the picture of Minerva, as if she were assigning her a part, pinning her down with a handful of adjectives, the beautiful, intelligent, high-minded Minerva. "And Maria Teresa, ay, Dios," Dedi sighs, emotion in her voice in spite of herself. "Still a girl when she died, pobrecita, just turned twenty-five." Dedi moves on to the last picture and rights the frame. "Sweet Patria, always her religion was so important."

"Always?" the woman says, just the slightest challenge in her voice.

"Always," Dedi affirms, used to this fixed, monolithic language around interviewers and mythologizers of her sisters. "Well, almost always."


* * *

She walks the woman out of the house into the galerma where the rocking chairs wait. A kitten lies recklessly under the runners, and she shoos it away "What is it you want to know?" Dedi asks bluntly. And then because the question does seem to ruddy call the woman to account for herself, she adds, "Because there is so much to tell."

The woman laughs as she says, "Tell me all of it."

Dedi looks at her watch as a polite reminder to the woman that the visit is circumscribed. "There are books and articles. I could have Tono at the museum show you the letters and diaries."

"That would be great," the woman says, staring at the orchid Dedi is still holding in her hand. Obviously, she wants more. She looks up, shyly. "I just have to say, it's really so easy to talk to you. I mean, you're so open and cheerful How do you keep such a tragedy from taking you under? I'm not sure I am explaining myself?"

Dedi sighs. Yes, the woman is making perfect sense. She thinks of an article she read at the beauty salon, by a Jewish lady who survived a concentration camp. "There were many many happy years. I remember those. I try anyhow. I tell myself, Dedi, concentrate on the positive! My niece Minou tells me I am doing some transcending meditation, something like that. She took the course in the capital.

"I'll tell myself, Dedi, in your memory it is such and such a day, and I start over, playing the happy moment in my head. This is my movies-I have no television here."

"It works?"

"Of course," Dedi says, almost fiercely. And when it doesn't work, she thinks, I get stuck playing the same bad moment. But why speak of that.

"Tell me about one of those moments," the woman asks, her face naked with curiosity. She looks down quickly as if to hide it.

Dedi hesitates, but her mind is already racing backwards, year by year by year, to the moment she has fixed in her memory as zero.


* * *

She remembers a clear moonlit night before the future began. They are sitting in the cool darkness under the anacahuita tree in the front yard, in the rockers, telling stories, drinking guanabana juice. Good for the nerves, Mama always says.

They're all there, Mama, Papa, Patria-Minerva-Dedi. Bang-bang-bang, their father likes to joke, aiming a finger pistol at each one, as if he were shooting them, not boasting about having sired them. Three girls, each born within a year of the other! And then, nine years later, Marma Teresa, his final desperate attempt at a boy misfiring.

Their father has his slippers on, one foot hooked behind the other. Every once in a while Dedi hears the clink of the rum bottle against the rim of his glass.

Many a night, and this night is no different, a shy voice calls out of the darkness, begging their pardon. Could they spare a calmante for a sick child out of their stock of kindness? Would they have some tobacco for a tired old man who spent the day grating yucca?

Their father gets up, swaying a little with drink and tiredness, and opens up the store. The campesino goes off with his medicine, a couple of cigars, a few mints for the godchildren. Dedi tells her father that she doesn't know how they do as well as they do, the way he gives everything away. But her father just puts his arm around her, and says, "Ay, Dedi, that's why I have you. Every soft foot needs a hard shoe.

"She'll bury us all," her father adds, laughing, "in silk and pearls." Dedi hears again the clink of the rum bottle. "Yes, for sure, our Dedi here is going to be the millionaire in the family."

"And me, Papa, and me?" Marma Teresa pipes up in her little girl's voice, not wanting to be left out of the future.

"You, mi qapita, you'll be our little coquette. You'll make a lot of men's -"

Their mother coughs her correcting-your-manners cough.

"-a lot of men's mouths water? their father concludes.

Marma Teresa groans. At eight years old, in her long braids and checkered blouse, the only future the baby wants is one that will make her own mouth water, sweets and gifts in big boxes that clatter with something fun inside when she shakes them.

"What of me, Papa?" Patria asks more quietly It is difficult to imagine Patria unmarried without a baby on her lap, but Dedi's memory is playing dolls with the past. She has sat them down that clear, cool night before the future begins, Mama and Papa and their four pretty girls, no one added, no one taken away Papa calls on Mama to help him out with his fortune-telling. Especially-though he doesn't say this-if she's going to censor the clairvoyance of his several glasses of rum. "What would you say, Mama, about our Patria?"

"You know, Enrique, that I don't believe in fortunes," Mama says evenly. "Padre Ignacio says fortunes are for those without faith." In her mother's tone, Dedi can already hear the distance that will come between her parents. Looking back, she thinks, Ay, Mama, ease up a little on those commandments. Work out the Christian math of how you give a little and you get it back a hundredfold. But thinking about her own divorce, Dedi admits the math doesn't always work out. If you multiply by zero, you still get zero, and a thousand heartaches.

"I don't believe in fortunes either," Patria says quickly She's as religious as Mama, that one. "But Papa isn't really telling fortunes."

Minerva agrees. "Papa's just confessing what he thinks are our strengths." She stresses the verb confessing as if their father were actually being pious in looking ahead for his daughters. "Isn't that so, Papa?"

"Sm, seqorita," Papa burps, slurring his words. It's almost time to go in.

"Also," Minerva adds, "Padre Ignacio condemns fortunes only if you believe a human being knows what only God can know." That one can't leave well enough alone.

"Some of us know it all," Mama says curtly.

Marma Teresa defends her adored older sister. "It isn't a sin, Mama, it isn't. Berto and Razl have this game from New York. Padre Ignacio played it with us. It's a board with a little glass you move around, and it tells the future!" Everybody laughs, even their mother, for Marma Teresa's voice is bursting with gullible excitement. The baby stops, suddenly, in a pout. Her feelings get hurt so easily On Minerva's urging, she goes on in a little voice. "I asked the talking board what I would be when I grew up, and it said a lawyer."



Continues...


Excerpted from In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez Copyright ©1995 by Julia Alvarez. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 230 )
Rating Distribution

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(139)

4 Star

(61)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(8)

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(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 230 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    !

    Thanks to the MANY rude, hateful inconsiderate plot spoiling posters who revealed every detail of the book, especially the fool that quoted long passages from the book...thanks for ruining the book. Each and every one of you should be banned from posting.

    20 out of 55 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2004

    A high school student who loves history!

    When I read this fantastic, innovative, and well written novel, it gave me a new insight on the history of the Dominican Republic. I had never before heard of Truilljo or the Miribal sisters. Not only did it give me great information (and a great movie as well!), but it also gave me inspiration. As a young woman, I know that I can achieve many things, just like Minerva did. I highly recommend this book for all who want a good book to read, want to learn, and want to become inspired.

    20 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2008

    Woohoo! Go Dominicans and Mrs. Matzke!

    I loved this book! The plot was excellent. My friend recommended this book because we both are Dominican. It is a wonderful novel through the interpretation of Julia Alavarez. She made it so that it sounded very believable it felt like an actual account.She brings their spirits and this time back to life in a charming story. The book was kind of confusing at first in the beginning through the eyes of Dede's nostalgia,because you needed to know the whole story. After I read through it, though, it explained itself'the story is mainly told in flashbacks'. In the time of Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, these sisters had the courage to risk their lives for their beloved country. They made a big impact. In my opinion, it's more of a feminine book. I recommend it, though, so go ahead and enjoy! =]

    15 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2010

    A beautiful story

    This book was chosen for my book club. Upon reading the synopsis I felt little excitement for it. Perhaps this is why it surpassed my expectations so greatly. It was a beautifully written story about three strong sisters who fought against the law for what they believed in. You feel like part of their family as you turn the pages.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    A good plot plagued by some serious issues.

    I did not enjoy the novel 'In the Time of the Butterflies', by Julia Alvarez. I found it to be quite dull, and very confusing as well. The story itself, however, is quite interesting. It starts off with one of the sisters, named Dede, telling the story of her and her other sisters. The story then shifts throughout each of the sisters perspectives as the story is being told, each telling through a different perspective. This aspect of the story I did not mind, and found it a rather new and refreshing style of story telling. It's too bad that the interesting way of telling the story did not help it in the end. As I've said before, the story itself was quite enjoyable. It was about four sisters who grew up in different ways. The book follows their life from when they were very young to when they are older. As the story progresses, the four sisters go from young children throughout life, to rebelling against the dictator known as El Jefe. He controls the land and he forces the people who live there to live in a certain way, with rules he decides. Soon, an underground resistance group rises up, with the sisters as large figures in it. He finds out about this, and tries to put an end to them. While this made for an interesting plot, the rest of the book basically ruined it. What I found most unpleasant about this book was its lack of focus, and numerous unneeded and overall annoying sections. The book has so many different sub plots, it's hard to take them all in so quickly, and eventually you begin to lose interest in the mundaneness of it all. There are just so many extra, unneeded things that it overall ruins the entire story. The main story itself, however, is not so bad. It is actually quite an interesting one, having to do with the rebellion against a dictator, and the will to live in a free country. The way the story is told differs from chapter to chapter, and is done in a quite interesting way. In one, it is told in the form of a diary, and in another, it is told through the eyes of one of the sisters in a first person perspective. So, overall, the book had an enjoyable and interesting story told through a fresh, new way, but suffered dearly because of the amount of detail it contained. It made the novel much harder to read and comprehend, much less enjoy. If it had been more concise, and had followed the main story line a lot more without all the useless descriptions and banter, it would have made for a much more enjoyable read. Overall, I'd give 'In the Time of the Butterflies' 2 stars.

    5 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    I read In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez twelve y

    I read In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez twelve years ago and it remains a favorite. This historical novel is part fact, part fiction. The setting is the Dominican Republic during the brutal and oppressive dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Alvarez chronicles the real and imagined lives of the Mirabel sisters, known as “las mariposas” or “the butterflies” because everyone in the resistant movement had false names. The book spans back and forth over the course of their childhood, teenage years, married adult lives and eventually their role in the subversive movement against Trujillo. Sadly, the book begins with three of the four sisters found dead after visiting their jailed husbands. While their deaths are intended to look like an accident, Alvarez reveals the risks these women took that eventually made them government targets.
    While I know this is a book recommendation site, I read this over a decade ago, so I’m a little hazy on the details. This is not what you want to hear when deciding on whether or not to read my recommendation, but what transpired while reading this great book is still so vivid and will prove that it is a must read.
    I have to bring you back three weeks prior to my having read In the Time of the Butterflies. For reasons that remain unknown (thank God there is no embarrassing context), I fainted in my Brooklyn apartment one February morning. Apparently I had broken the fall with my chin and my roommate found me face down with my arms at my side. My memory of the event is recorded in snapshots. I remember waking up thinking I had pretzels in my mouth, which were in fact broken teeth. Next I remember hearing my roommate calling 911. Then I remember her holding me in her lap telling me I was ok as I repeatedly told her I was fine. And then the paramedics arrived. When I foolishly asked to see a mirror in the ambulance, I saw missing teeth and a gaping hole in my chin.
    I was transported to the nearest hospital- Woodhull Hospital. I have no memory of my entrance, but my mother told me the first thing she saw when she entered was a “de-lousing” room. In short, Woodhull Hospital is a horrifying place. Here are some reviews I found online:
    “Do not go to this hospital, even if you're dying. Seriously, if you're dying, you should be in an ambulance headed to any hospital but this one. It has one of the dirtiest, scariest ERs I've ever seen.”
    “This hospital caters mostly to drunks and crack heads who need to dry out or come down. If I were to bring a child here, I would have to cover her eyes. The scene is bad enough if you're healthy, but coming here with some sort of illness or injury makes you kind of hope they just kill you. But be careful what you wish for, because it's likely that they will.”
    While at this house of horrors, I learned I had a broken and dislocated jaw (aside from smashed teeth and a busted chin) and I would have to stay a week. Upon hearing the news, I started crying. I was obviously very upset, but I was more distraught about the possibility of missing an upcoming trip to Belize.
    I spent the night in that crazy hospital, but left the next day against doctor’s orders so I could receive proper care (I had already let a dentist stitch my chin closed). Oh what a sight I must have been. I left with gauze wrapped around my head and chin, not unlike a mummy. I had no shoes, so I walked in the snow to the car in hospital booties. Once I reached the oral surgeon’s office, I started crying again. Not because of the people staring at me in horror, but because I was finally getting adequate care. This care required having my jaw snapped back into place and then wired shut for 6 WEEKS.
    Despite my liquid diet, inability to articulate, and rapidly declining weight, I was not canceling my trip to Belize with my friend Christina. My carry on suit case included cases of Ensure, a water pick, books and a bikini-everything I needed in case my luggage disappeared.
    The first book I read there was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami. I know Murakami is hailed as a talented novelist, but this book did nothing for me. My brother has a knack for recommending books that are so unbelievably not my taste. Then I started and finished In the Time of the Butteflies in a single day.
    On that day, Christina and I parked ourselves in the sand and we left once for lunch (my lunch for the week was broth, Ensure, and a Coke). The rest of the day I spent buried in my book. I used to take tanning very seriously, but on that particular day I did not re-position my chair with the changing angle of the sun because I was knee deep in the lives of the Mirabel sisters. When I tore myself away for another can of Ensure, I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror of our room and I almost fainted again. I had managed to get a really bad burn on my face- but only half of my face. It was if someone had drawn a diagonal line from the top left of my forehead to the bottom right of my chin. You could almost see the imaginary line that had been drawn on my already battered face.
    Christina promised me it really wasn’t that bad. She’s a good friend, but a liar. When we were at the hotel bar later that night, I felt a man sitting next to me sneaking glances our way. Finally he flat out asked “So what happened to your face?” And I had to answer him, through my wired shut jaw. It was not my finest hour.
    So while part of my burnt face eventually scabbed, I had at least read a fantastic book. And Julia Alvarez continues to be one of my favorite authors.

    4 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2006

    Incredible

    I love this book. It broke my heart with it's beauty and strength!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2004

    In simple words: a VERY good book

    I recommend In the Times of the Butterflies to everyone in search of a good reading. YOU WILL LOVE THIS! When I was about to finish the book, only a few pages left, I kept going back and back to the core of the story, I did not want it to be over. It was an amazing 'so worth the reading'! A MUST READ, FOR SURE!!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    I Cried

    This book is worth the tears!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    Horrible.

    What can I say? Julia Alvarez is a critically acclaimed author, but I have to say, this book is terrible. The plot was slow and often had little to no exciting tidbits as the plot progressed. You must have to be really into women's rights or dictatorships to appreciate this book I suppose.

    Short Answer= Don't buy it, I regret it and I hope you don't.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2008

    A great book

    I have not read such a good book in a long time. It had a perfect mix of history with fiction. The story was interesting and told with such emotion. The characters were easy to connect and relate to. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who wants to read about strong women and men in a time and place where strength is hard to come by.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2007

    Fantastic!!

    I love this book! The author not only shows the butterflies as the martyrs they became but also as the strong, beautiful women that they were. This book is one of my favorites. A must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2005

    Best book ever!!!!

    This made me think about thingts I have never thought of before. It is the realest historical fiction I have ever read and made me cry my eyes out... I loved it

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2005

    flutter flutter, flutter flutter

    What exactly happened during Trujillo¡¯s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic anyway? Julia Alvarez goes behind the scenes as she shares the story of four courageous young ladies in the book In the Time of the Butterflies. This treacherous event in Hispanic Caribbean history can finally be told in fiction, the only way that it can be fully understood. I personally enjoyed reading this book a lot. Not only because I like true stories, but because the author wrote in a way that makes it feel real to the reader. The story is about four sisters, Las Mariposas (¡°The Butterflies¡±), who share their side of the story behind the events that took place during the regime. In the end they are killed, but no one realizes that one of the sisters is alive. The story begins with the surviving sister being interviewed to set the facts straight on what exactly happened to her sisters. Throughout the story, we are able to see the event from various perspectives. The story never gets boring as the writing style differs in every chapter. This is possible because every chapter is a different sister¡¯s account, so it had to be voiced differently. Once you started getting tired or bored of something, the chapter would be over and you would see the account from a different view. From their school life, love life, life in prison to the days of house arrest, the story never ceases to surprise you. By reading this heart breaking story we are able to remember the horrible things in this world that should never be forgotten in fear of their reoccurrence. I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone. It was almost impossible to put this book down once I started reading it. The only reason that I would stop reading the book was because I was so tired that I couldn¡¯t see! Even though some events in history seem irrelevant and boring, when it is told in a form of writing such as fiction, it seems more real to you. Though it seems like just an imagined story, you will be amazed at what really happens to some people in reality. The only thing that acted as a hindrance in the progress of reading this book was all the Spanish. There was quite a bit of Spanish used here and there. It was difficult to read some portions of the book and fully comprehend what was going on if you didn¡¯t know what certain words meant. However, if you are fairly confident in your Spanish skills, don¡¯t let anything stop you from picking this book up on your way home today.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2003

    My all-time favorite book...

    This is one of the very, very best books I've ever read and my FAVORITE of all time...it is powerful, riveting, touching and based on a true story. A must-read!!!! If you saw the HBO movie, THE BOOK IS 110% BETTER THAN THE MOVIE!!!!!!! The movie does not do the book justice @ all!! Read the real thing.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2006

    Latina

    This book reflects the intelligence that latinas have. I'm not trying to brag because im a female but all women can show there intelligence and capability. I as a Dominican am very proud to say that i met DeDe the living sister of the four.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2013

    This is a wonderful book. I wish I could give it two ratings. Th

    This is a wonderful book. I wish I could give it two ratings. The book deserves five stars. Perfectly written, captivating characterizations, a near-perfect book. Unfortunately, the Nook version is riddled with typos. Missing periods, misscanned words (a common one is "mil" for "will," and other typos that are sometimes enough to draw me out of the story to figure out what it was supposed to say. In one case, a sentence became almost nonsensical due to a misprinting. It doesn't spoil the book for me, so I'm still giving it five stars here, but with typos on nearly every page (or at least, so it seems), I feel like I need to qualify my praise.

    The story itself, though, is one of the best I've read in a long time. If you haven't read it and you find it interesting enough that you want to check the reviews, by all means, get it. I don't think you'll be sorry.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Outstanding novel based on real people and events

    This is an extremely emotional story about 4 sisters, their husbands and family, in the Dominican Republic during the time of Trujillo. It pulls you into the story and you live during that time too. An amazing story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2011

    Highly recommend

    Based on historical events. Written from the viewpoint of each sister which gives more depth from the different perspectives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Long Live the Butterflies

    I found this fictionalized account of the Maribal sisters to be a very good read. Does this mean I enjoyed it completely? Not exactly.
    The first two parts of this novel were rather tedious, and I had a hard time getting into them. The last part however, was thrilling as well as informative. Thats because its when the girls really got into the movement. This book was touching and inspiring. It was sad to see the high points in the girls' lives, as I knew how it was going to end.
    This was a good read, which I do recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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