Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Butterfly Girl, by Rene Denfeld.

          I have never forgotten a book by the above author that I read six years ago, called ‘The Enchanted’, an astonishing story about a prisoner on Death Row, and how he got there.  It was horrifying, heart-breaking and ultimately uplifting, a story of the emotional and spiritual vandalism perpetrated upon the most vulnerable, and what turns a child into a killer:  now, Rene Denfeld has produced another searing exposé of the careless ignorance and cruelty that permeates our society, and the few – too few – good people who try to make a difference.  And she knows whereof she speaks, as a journalist, investigator and foster-mother.  She writes from  experience.
            Celia is a 12 year old street kid in Portland, Oregon.  She sleeps under a freeway on-ramp with two other boys, panhandling and turning the occasional trick to get money.  (Not much).  She left home because her mother has become a heroin addict thanks to her new husband, who introduced her to the habit so that he could move in on Celia:  when Celia reported him to the authorities she was called a liar, so she ran away and joined the homeless kids on Skid Row, but her only regret is that she left her little sister behind;  Celia knows that Alyssa will eventually meet the same fate.  She is only six. 
Celia has a single fantasy that sustains her:  her love for the grace and beauty of butterflies, instilled within her when she was very small by her mother when times were different:  Celia stays in the local library for hours reading about the gorgeous winged creatures, and when life is particularly ugly, she can lose herself in butterfly dreams.  It’s the only way to survive.
Naomi is an Investigator of missing children, and has had some success in her searches – but she cannot find her own sister, left behind as a toddler when Naomi herself escaped from captivity in a bunker when she was nine years old:  her failure to track Sarah down eats at her soul, for she promised that she would return, return to rescue her – and she hasn’t.  But she still tries, still relentlessly goes over all the old clues – and meets Celia, the Butterly Girl.
Ms Denfeld weaves a masterful spell over the reader as she takes us to the story’s end at a thriller pace;  her characters are all too tragically real, as the vulnerable always are, but hope is there too, thanks to good people like Ms Denfeld:  she puts her money where her mouth is!  SIX STARS. 

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