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Butterfly's Child: A Novel

Angela Davis-Gardner

1,095 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0385340958 / ISBN 13: 9780385340953
Published by Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2012
New Condition: New Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Butterfly's Child: A Novel

Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks

Publication Date: 2012

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

About this title


When three-year-old Benji is plucked from the security of his home in Nagasaki to live with his American father, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, and stepmother, Kate, on their farm in Illinois, the family conceals Benji’s true identity as a child born from a liaison between an officer and a geisha—and instead tells everyone that he is an orphan. When the truth surfaces, it will splinter this family’s fragile dynamic and send Benji on the journey of a lifetime from Illinois to the Japanese settlements in Denver and San Francisco, then across the ocean to Nagasaki, where he will uncover the truth about his mother’s tragic death.

Don’t miss the exclusive conversation between Angela Davis-Gardner and Jennifer Egan at the back of the book.


Guest Reviewer: Jennifer Egan on Angela Davis-Gardner's Butterfly's Child
Jennifer Egan is the author of the novels Look At Me, The Keep, The Invisible Circus, and the short story collection Emerald City. Her fourth novel, A Visit From The Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

I began reading Angela Davis-Gardner’s novel Butterfly’s Child in August 2010, on a family trip to Ireland. My expectation, honestly, was that I would dip in for a few pages and move on. I was comically wrong. In fact, I got swept up by Davis-Gardner’s tale to a point that proved disruptive to our trip: I found myself exhausted from staying up late to read it, trying to duck out of our sightseeing activities and continue. As my husband finally put it, “I feel like there is another person on this vacation.”

All the while, I asked myself: what makes this book so good? The first answer is evident from the very fact that I couldn’t put it down: the story hugely compelling. “Butterfly” refers to Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, whose mixed-race son Davis-Gardner follows back to America with his father, Pinkerton, and his American wife, after Butterfly’s suicide. Davis-Gardner’s historical research is effortlessly authoritative; her exploration of race in late 19th Century America is fascinating. But Butterfly’s Child is as much a study of gender as of race, and its portrait of the impact of Midwestern farm and family life on Kate, Pinkerton’s wife, is unforgettably poignant.

Best of all, Davis-Gardner unleashes a walloping surprise in the second half of Butterfly’s Child, upending the reader’s assumption that her novel is a mere re-imagining of Butterfly’s familiar tale, and revealing her deeper strategy: to coolly unmask the distortions inherent in dramatic mythmaking.

As a member of a book group, I can’t think of a better choice than Butterfly’s Child: compelling as catnip; bristling with ideas and questions and discussion points. It will fascinate and entertain its readers, and it will make some of them angry. In other words, it’s an excellent book.

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