The Butterfly Sister: A Novel

The Butterfly Sister: A Novel

4.0 17
by Amy Gail Hansen

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The past just arrived on Ruby's doorstep . . .

To uncover the truth about a friend's disappearance, a fragile young woman must silence the ghosts of her past in this moving debut tale that intertwines mystery, madness, betrayal, love, and literature.

"My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on

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The past just arrived on Ruby's doorstep . . .

To uncover the truth about a friend's disappearance, a fragile young woman must silence the ghosts of her past in this moving debut tale that intertwines mystery, madness, betrayal, love, and literature.

"My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on that particular October evening, it literally arrived at my doorstep."

Twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is haunted by memories of Tarble, the women's college she fled from ten months earlier, and the painful love affair that pushed her to the brink of tragedy.

When a suitcase belonging to a former classmate named Beth arrives on her doorstep, Ruby is plunged into a dark mystery. Beth has gone missing, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence of her whereabouts.

Inside the bag, Ruby discovers a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the book she believes was a harbinger of her madness. Is someone trying to send her a message—and what does it mean?

The search for answers leads to Tarble. As Ruby digs into Beth's past, she has no choice but to confront her own—an odyssey that will force her to reexamine her final days at school, including the married professor who broke her heart and the ghosts of illustrious writers, dead by their own hand, who beckoned her to join their tragic circle.

But will finding the truth finally set Ruby free . . . or send her over the edge of sanity?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Hansen’s agreeable debut, college dropout Ruby Rousseau mistakenly receives a suitcase belonging to Beth Richards, a former classmate at Tarble, a private women’s college near Chicago. The suitcase seems only a nuisance until Ruby learns that Beth has vanished on a trip to Pittsburgh. Ruby, an obituary writer for a suburban Chicago daily, hands the suitcase over to an indifferent and inept detective, but inadvertently keeps one of Beth’s books, which has marginalia referring to Mark Suter, a young, charismatic, and unscrupulous professor at Tarble. Is Beth’s disappearance connected to Suter? Ruby—whose disastrous affair with Suter ended with her attempting suicide—is convinced that it is, and travels to Tarble, where she confronts ghosts from her past, including Suter. Some truly bizarre characters people the story and some surprises defy credulity, but this thriller remains rewarding reading. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Nancy Woodruff
“Hansen’s first novel is heartfelt, suspenseful and very, very satisfying!”
Meg Cabot
“I LOVED IT. That book is the perfect beach read... girls who like dishy romantic thrillers are going to go nuts for it this summer. I myself couldn’t put it down til I was done, like it was a big fat pina colada.”
Jacquelyn Mitchard
“That rare thing, a dark mystery that also works on your heart, ‘The Butterfly Sister’ is a beguiling, terrifying story and Amy Gail Hansen a true find.”
Kirkus Reviews
After a disastrous semester, Ruby Rousseau returns home to tend her wounds. A broken heart, a suicide attempt, a failed thesis--all have left her devastated, unable even to read her favorite books. But the delivery of a mysterious suitcase forces her to face her demons. The suitcase belongs to Beth Richards, an acquaintance, not even a friend, from Tarble College, and she's gone missing. Inside the suitcase, Ruby finds not only a postcard invitation to Tarble's Reunion Weekend, but also a copy of A Room of One's Own, a book that sings to her with the siren call of her abandoned thesis. Under the guidance of the handsome, charismatic and married professor Mark Suter, Ruby had spent her final semester immersed in the literature of women whose creativity and intelligence had driven them to desperate, suicidal acts. Now working as a journalist--well, really just writing obituaries--Ruby is perhaps fulfilling the echoes in her college's namesake of muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell. Unable to resist, she opens the book and discovers a comment in the margin that she cannot ignore. Encouraged by her editor, Ruby begins investigating Beth's disappearance, a search that quickly splashes over its margins into her own life. Was her thesis really a failure? What were Suter's true intentions? The answers can only be found by traveling back to Tarble, where another young woman has attempted suicide on the eve of the reunion. Ghostly sightings of Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sylvia Plath throw Ruby's sanity into question as they emphasize a thread stitching each of these women's lives to each other's: All are madwomen in the attic. Despite some implausible coincidences, Hansen's debut cleverly entwines these literary ghosts into a suspenseful and swiftly paced light mystery.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

A former English teacher, Amy Gail Hansen is a freelance writer and journalist living in suburban Chicago. This is her first novel.

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The Butterfly Sister 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
CMKmom More than 1 year ago
This was a mystery story - it involved young college girls, a professor who seduced them, an apparent murder, and a backdrop of beautiful New Orleans. This was a well written and conceived story - the characters were well enough defined the reader was interested them and in what comes next. I look forward to reading her next book. This one was a good deal better than some by well established authors.
JoyAnneTN More than 1 year ago
A year ago Ruby couldn't handle life anymore, she had lost her father and the professor she was in love with ended their relationship leaving her feeling like such a fool. Seeing no way out she felt she had to end it all and unsuccessfully attempted suicide. She leaves college and moves to Chicago, later she finds her former roommate is missing and she must return to the college to look for her.  This isn't one of those typical "girl plays detective" novels, it's an interesting, well written, story with lots of twists and turns that kept me wondering what did actually happen. The ending, though wrapped up nicely, was a bit of a disappointment... it was an OK ending but I was hoping for more. There are interesting characters, a good plot, and enough suspense to make this a wonderful read!  I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a suspenseful light mystery that kept me reading till the end.I thought it was a strong debut novel. I did enjoy the mood and the characters in it altho a few instances were just toi conveniently timed ...other parts of the story held my interest.
StephWard More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars 'The Butterfly Sister' is a thrilling mystery that follows main character Ruth Rousseau as she is reluctantly drawn into the mystery of her former dorm mate and friend's disappearance. After a scandalous affair with a professor and the depression and attempted suicide that followed, Ruth doesn't want to think about her old school, Tarble, or her time spent there. All that changes one day when a strange suitcase arrives at her door with her name on it. Ruth realizes that the suitcase actually belongs to her old dorm mate from college, Beth Richards. When Ruth attempts to return the suitcase, she finds out that Beth disappeared two days earlier and the suitcase that Ruth has is the only evidence to be found. If Ruth is to discover what happened to Beth and to attempt to save her before it's too late, she must delve into her past - her time at Tarble, the people from her past, and the memories she's tried so hard to bury - and eventually realizes that the only place to find real answers is her old school itself. This was a very well written and taut thriller that is an exceptional novel for a debut author. The characters were all very well done, especially Ruth. She has so many layers to her - she has tried to put her past and all of it's pain behind her, but it continues to affect her even all these years later. She proves to be a devoted friend and will do anything it takes to do what's right - even if that means revisiting all the pain and heartbreak that she's been hiding from for years. The plot was very fast paced with lots of great twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I love thrillers and mysteries - I always try to figure out what's really going on before the characters do, but I was truly at a loss with this one. The mystery had major revelations and connections that nobody saw coming - the characters or the reader - and I was completely engrossed until the last page. The writing was incredibly well done and I was astonished that it was the author's debut novel. It was very fast paced and all the layers of the mystery wove together to make a fascinating narrative. Overall, this was a captivating mystery thriller with tons of intriguing twists that will keep you guessing until the end. Highly recommended for fans of mystery and thrillers and those looking for a very well written novel with a fantastic mystery. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters, the relationships, the imagery, the emotions, the dialogue, the plot ... one surprise after another. Excellent read.
GracieO More than 1 year ago
This book was slow going in a number of chapters but in the end it was worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mzsamz21 More than 1 year ago
I read this book last year, and I recommend it to every girl who thinks they aren't good enough for a guy. This book will create a picture for you while you are reading it. I am glad she found tru love in the end but that was so messed up about her  teacher. The girls missing and the connection to school is crazy!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book i have read of hers and will start looking for others, this was really good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NookGirlPA More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book. As I kept reading the chapters, I kept saying to myself, "Well I didn't see that coming!" Buy it and read it, you won't be sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth reading. Sometimes a bit too many twists, but the characters are generally likeable. Great dialogue and descriptions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MissBethBC More than 1 year ago
Well, I was thoroughly invested in this psychological thriller and I read throughout the night to finish this work. I rated it five stars. It was very easy to read and follow as it gripped my hearstrings and played them like a harp! I could easily relate to all the ups and downs of the students at Tarble. Ruby Rousseau, our main character, fell for her English professor and he, Mark Sutter, certainly had eyes for her too. Little did she realize she was just one of many students to fall for the Professor's charms. The old saying, easy come, easy go, usually refers to how fast we can pass money until we have no more, but it equally applied to the love Mark Sutter was passing around. He loved hard and left them wanting more. An all girl's school you wouldn't think would encounter a user and abuser of women, but no one saw the threat from within the college faculty. Believe me, there were turns and twists you couldn't see coming until the truth about another professor was exposed. When that happened you felt the angst of these young women who had been manipulated like marionette puppets in the effort to even the score with Mark Sutter. It was an intriguing tale, well plotted and thought out and it provoked in this reader diverse feelings as I read.  I was angry, I was frightened for the girls, I was sad. And I was relieved with the ending being what it was. I would highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys a psychological thriller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DJGDG More than 1 year ago
"The Butterfly Sister," the debut novel from Amy Gail Hansen, is an intelligent and multi-layered psychological thriller. It has a lot going  for it, primarily an intelligent but flawed and vulnerable protagonist, Ruby Rousseau, and a manipulative and slimy antagonist, Mark Suter, the English professor who preys upon students at the all woman Tarble College. They are well served by a strong supporting cast of multi-dimensional characters. This may be Hansen’s strength – not one of her many characters felt like a cliché; all were fully realized and believable. The mystery is thick and complex and that’s good – the primary characters are too intelligent to be involved in anything less. There are several twists and turns, and mostly they work – there are some convoluted moments in the story’s climax - but I was willing to go along with them because even when certain plot elements felt false, the characters were so real and compelling I was eager to see how they’d react. While the mystery is unfolding, so are the themes Hansen explores – primarily, why do brilliant and capable women so often fall victim to the superficial romantic manipulations of inferior men? Ruby is a graduate student writing a thesis on this topic, examining the suicides of Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins and Sylvia Plath even as she is driven to her own attempted suicide. Ruby’s easy acceptance of blame in her failed affair with Suter, and her reluctance or inability to see what we see, that he is a true cad who is not worthy of her, are confounding yet entirely believable. Having recently lost her father, she is vulnerable not just to the advances of Suter, but to other male authority figures in her life, like her boss at the newspaper she writes obituaries for. Hansen’s prose is crisp and evocative. She has a real gift for character development, and is particularly effective at keeping the narrative moving and engaging while simultaneously revealing important information that we need to know. The writing is lean and efficient, with hardly a wasted word, and we get just enough descriptive passages to feel the cool Wisconsin autumn and the damp and humid New Orleans cafes. By the time the book reaches its conclusion, Ruby has changed, from vulnerable and listless to an angry and independent woman who is willing to take responsibility for and learn from her mistakes. Read More Editorial Reviews