The Butterfly's Daughter

The Butterfly's Daughter

by Mary Alice Monroe


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The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author of the Lowcountry Summer trilogy, once again touches hearts with her lyrical, poignant, and moving novel The Butterfly’s Daughter!

Every year, the monarch butterflies—las mariposas—fly more than two thousand miles on fragile wings to return to their winter home in Mexico. Now Luz Avila makes that same perilous journey south as she honors a vow to her beloved abuela—the grandmother who raised her—to return her ashes to her ancestral village. As Luz departs Milwaukee in a ramshackle old VW Bug, she finds her heart opened by a series of seemingly random encounters with remarkable women. In San Antonio, however, a startling revelation awaits: a reunion with a woman from her past. Together, the two cross into Mexico to await the returning monarchs in the little village Abuela called home, but they are also crossing a border that separates past from present . . . and truth from lies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439170687
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 382
Sales rank: 138,979
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of two dozen novels, including The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s End, A Lowcountry Wedding, A Lowcountry Christmas, Last Light Over Carolina, Time Is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Four Seasons, The Book Club, The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, Beach House for Rent, and Beach House Reunion. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. In 2018 she was inducted into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. Her novel, The Beach House was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at and at

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Butterfly's Daughter includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In The Butterfly’s Daughter, four women embark on a journey of self-discovery that follows the monarch butterflies’ migration to Mexico. The story begins when Luz Avila’s grandmother, the local butterfly lady, purchases an old VW bug for a road trip back home to Mexico. When she unexpectedly dies, Luz is inspired to take her Abuela’s ashes home. Following her grandmother’s beloved butterflies, Luz meets a collection of women—each on a journey of her own. But nothing can prepare Luz for what she finds along the way.

Rich with lyrical detail and insight, The Butterfly’s Daughter embraces the notion that life is more about the journey, rather than the destination.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The author writes, “The annual migration of the monarch is a phenomenal story—a miracle of instinct and survival.” (p. 9) Do you think this quote also applies to Luz and her friends’ journey? Where else in The Butterfly’s Daughter are there parallels between nature and the novel’s characters?

2. Before she dies, Abuela tells Luz, “True courage comes from the heart. Tu corazan. Sometimes, it takes more courage not to jump and to stand strong.” (p. 34) Later, Luz wonders whether courage is “nothing more than taking wing and staying the course.” (p. 89) How do you define courage?

3. Abuela believed that “a monarch butterfly was the soul of the recently departed.” (p. 52) What kinds of myths or superstitions does your own family believe in? What kind of purpose do you think these beliefs serve? What did you think about Ofelia and Luz’s different interpretation of the use of Xochiquetzal in the creation myth?

4. Luz followed the butterflies to Mexico both literally and figuratively—often discovering a butterfly or some other kind of sign at the moment when she most needed help and guidance. What do you think these signs represent? Have you ever felt like you were receiving signs to aid you along your way?

5. Why do you think Abuela lied to Luz about her mother’s death? Early in the novel the author writes that Abuela “had told the story so many times over the years it was accepted as the truth—even by herself. “ (p. 9) Do you think she was right to lie, or should she have told Luz the truth from the beginning? Are lies of any kind acceptable in a family?

6. When Luz arrives in Texas and discovers that her mother, Mariposa, is still alive, she's filled with a mix of emotions—hurt, anger, joy, betrayal, panic. She’s furious with Mariposa for leaving and disappointed that her mother is not the woman she’d fantasized about. What do you think about Luz’s reaction to meeting her mother? Discuss how they ended the journey at the airport. Do you think that Luz and Mariposa will ultimately be able to have a mother/daughter relationship?

7. Margaret’s mother told her that she had to make her own luck, and this is one of the reasons she decides to join Luz on her journey. Do you agree that you make your own luck?

8. In The Butterfly’s Daughter, the author shows both Mariposa’s struggles to turn her life around and the negative effects she’s had, whether intentional or unintentional, on the people in her life. Do you think she is ultimately a sympathetic character?

9. Once she arrives in Texas, Luz sees herself in the mirror and “marveled at how the changes she felt occurring inside herself were reflected outside as well.” (p. 270) In what ways does she mature internally? How did she most change? What was the most significant lesson she learned?

10. As they travel toward Mexico, Luz and her friends make an ofrenda for Abuela with scraps that signify each woman—the baby booties Ofelia made, dried flowers, Stacie’s artwork. Discuss Mariposa’s opinion that Luz’s ofrenda was disrespectful. How do her actions reveal the breakdown of verbal and non-verbal communication between a mother and daughter? Was Luz’s fury a response to feeling disrespected, or to her feeling that she was neither seen nor heard by her mother?

11. During the course of their journey, many of the characters emerge from her own “cocoon”—Luz leaves behind her sheltered existence, Margaret breaks free of her own rigid boundaries, Ofelia ends an abusive relationship, and Mariposa lets go of her guilt. In what ways did the women help one another with their individual metamorphoses?

12. Mariposa visits her garden when she needs peace and strength, because it makes her feel “rooted to a profound source that connect[s] her to a greater whole.” (p. 283) Discuss different ways you find peace and strength when needed. Where else in The Butterfly’s Daughter do the characters turn to nature for healing?

13. In Mexico, Luz celebrates Day of the Dead with her family. The family creates an altar to honor the departed and share stories of the deceased’s life. What similarities and differences do you see between this tradition and the way that other cultures honor their dead?

14. Mariposa asks Sam, “Why does everyone always think only of the butterfly as beautiful? It’s the change itself—the metamorphosis—that is the true wonder.” (p. 257) Do you agree? Discuss the notion that true beauty lives not in the final result but in the act of transformation. How does this relate to Luz’s journey and the discoveries she makes about herself?

15. A major theme of the novel is genetic memory. For the monarch butterfly, the fourth generation of monarch butterfly acts on instinct to make the journey. What traits and similarities—physical and behavioral—were carried on in Luz’s family? In your own family?


1. To learn more, visit Mary Alice Monroe’s website ( and the websites Monroe used to research monarchs: Journey North ( and Monarch Watch (

2. Invite members of your book club to build an ofrenda, an offering to someone you’ve loved and lost. Use different items that are significant to your relationship with that person or that remind you of him or her.

3. Bring elements of a Day of the Dead celebration into your book club by making some of the foods Abuela made or incorporating some of the traditional customs. You can find recipes and suggestions at

Customer Reviews

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The Butterfly's Daughter 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Butterfly's Daughter is a beautifully written tale of not only a young woman's journey into self discovery, but also lives she touched and changed along the way. This book has some tragedy, a little laughter, and even a few tears. When this book arrived, I read the summary again and thought "did I mean to order this book?". Than, I started reading just a few pages to see if this was the one I had meant to order. I kept on reading and couldn't put it down. It's a truly captivating tale. I loved it! I'm glad I ordered it, and yes, I think I did intend to order this book...
CONNIE Le Blanc-belle More than 1 year ago
This story is an affirmation of human frailties, love, hate and finally self realization. It is a well written story that vividly describes the relationship between life, people and our intrinsic connection to the infinite universe, as well as our fear of uncertainty, and finding the undeniability of love and redemption. The book is brilliant; tears flowed freely and uncontrollably once the connection was made to the characters.
gl More than 1 year ago
Mary Alice Monroe's latest novel, The Butterfly's Daughter, is a book about friendship, family and self-discovery. Luz is determined to fulfill her promise to go to her grandmother's village in Mexico to see the place where the monarch butterflies journey every year. This task is a pilgrimage for Luz and it's a final tribute to the woman who raised her. As Luz encounters problems on her way to Mexico, she handles them best she can. Her openness and generosity lead to unexpected friendships. While the interaction between Luz her new friends is heartwarming, Luz's complex relationship with her mother gives the book an added complexity. The Butterfly's Daughter is a heartwarming women's novel. ISBN-10: 1439170614 - Hardcover Publisher: Gallery (May 3, 2011), 400 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I belong to a book club at Mission royale, in Casa Grand. It was unanimously agreed that we all enjoyed "The Butterflys Daughter" One Of our members had actually been to the Little town in Mexico and had gone up the mountain. She said it was guite spectacular.
CHERJU43 More than 1 year ago
One of my best reads in a long time. Well written and keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat. Not only suspenseful but also informative. Well worth reading. I finished it in less than three days. I could not put it down.
Anonymous 8 months ago
The characters were amazing as well as the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written
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GrammaKD More than 1 year ago
I read The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe and enjoyed it. This book is very different but also very good. It seemed slow at first but as I got into it I had a hard time putting it down. It's about a young woman who begins a journey to connect with the only family she has left after losing her beloved Abuela. Intertwined in the storyline is an account of the beautiful Monarch Butterflies and their long trip back to Mexico - and the celebrations, rituals, and folklore surrounding their arrival. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is sweet, very sweet, almost too sweet. At some point in time as I was reading this, I realized that this is a fairy tale. All references to the butterflies are wonderful. The human characters are what make this a fairy tale. If you like reality, you will not like this book. If you like fairy tales, you will like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have recommended this book to family and friends. I could not put it down. I have traveled through Mexico and encountered the migration of these butterflies. It is a truly awesome experience. The book captures this very well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
really well written adventure and family
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
danielux More than 1 year ago
Very good novel, interesting narrative technique and very emotional story about love, human life and self-realization.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was OK. It seemed like it was just touching the surface of the relationships between grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter. Some of it could have been left out, some expanded upon. Would I recommend this, maybe.
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