Title: In the Time of the Butterflies
Author: Julia Alvarez
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction – Historical Fiction
Summary: 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 the Time of the Butterflies is the story of the Mirabal Sisters who were murdered under the Trujillo Regime in Dominican Republic, 1960. I knew the necessary basics; they were 3 sisters who resisted the regime and were murdered while in a jeep. This story seeks to humanize and give you the story behind the legend that brought down the Regime. Domican Republic was under Rafael Trujillo from 1930 to 1961 during this time the country prospered economically at the expense of civil rights, free press and genuine terror. That is really what you need to know going in to this novel. The novel is told in 4 perspectives, each of the murdered sisters plus the 4th sister, Dedé who survived.
Alvarez tries to give each of the girls their own voice, their own reason for embarking on this journey. The leader of the girls, Minerva was the natural born revolutionary. She was beautiful, opinionated, passionate, brave and defiant. Then you have Patria, who wanted to be a nun when young but fell in love and started a family, her religious convictions root her defiance when she realizes she can no longer be quiet about the atrocities happening. Finally you have the youngest, killed at age 24, Maria Teresa ‘Mate’ and her sections of the book are done in a diary-entry style, and she joins the revolution because she meets a handsome revolutionary. Dedé is the surviving one and she lives because she never becomes involved in the revolution but once her sisters are killed she lives a long life, raising her sisters’ children and eventually opening up a museum in their memory.
Overall, I really enjoyed getting to know the sisters, my favorites being Minerva and Patria – I thought they were the most fleshed out of the characters but I do think this undertaking was very ambitious and having so many POVs I’m not sure if I got what I fully wanted out of the novel. I mean, the book is fantastic – one of the few books that really showcases the Mirabals but I wanted more. This is historical fiction but it’s very approachable, the language is not intimidating nor is it overly literary. I highly recommend it if like me you enjoy reading about ladies who defied governments. As you can imagine, this is a sad story, a senseless death but it also showcases the humanity behind revolutionaries which I appreciated. We have a tendency to see them as these battle-worn people not mothers, sisters and daughters who could not be quiet against injustices.