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The Butterfly Sister: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – August 6, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)

From Booklist

When the suitcase of a former college classmate mysteriously arrives at her doorstep, Ruby Rousseau is forced to confront her painful past. During the previous year, Ruby had an affair with her English professor, attempted suicide, and dropped out of a prestigious women’s college just shy of graduation. The suitcase belongs to Beth, who recently went missing after taking an overseas trip, and Ruby grudgingly sets out to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. Author Hansen’s debut novel investigates the parallels between the contemporary female college experience and the influence of some of literature’s greatest women writers: Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, among others. Although the plot takes some predictable turns, Hansen’s heroine, Ruby, proves to be a smart, complex, and very engaging character. An agreeable mix of suspense and literary fiction. --Heather Paulson

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062234625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062234629
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would prefer to give this book 3 1/2 stars. Somewhere between good and really good. I purchased a copy of "The Butterfly Sisters" on Amazon after seeing it advertised on Goodreads. It's an easy book to read. I liked the author's writing style and the story was well-paced (until the end). I also liked the themes of women's literature, creativity, suicide, madness, New Orleans, ghosts, and the bittersweet angst of college romances. It even reminded me a bit at the beginning of "The Bell Jar," a novel that I'm fairly sure the author hoped to invoke.

However, as other reviewers have noted, there were elements of the story that seemed far-fetched. And the ending was so convoluted and such a disappointment that it spoiled a novel that otherwise had the makings of an excellent read.

About two-thirds of the way through this book, when Ruby meets and attends a lecture of Professor Barnard's, I thought to myself, "Wow, this is really good - a well-written novel of shared female empowerment." And although that theme wasn't completely shattered by the ending, the majority of it was.

I found this novel frustrating because it started so well, got even better, and then fell off a ledge. It's hard not to wonder if some, if not all of the author's friends and editors who read through the manuscript didn't suggest a different ending that would be just as effective, but not so nearly convoluted and far-fetched.

All in all, I hope Amy Gail Hansen continues to write. She shows a lot of promise and with more experience and an excellent editor, Hansen just might be able to create a novel that is an A+, rather than a B-.
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Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like this book - there were so many positive reviews posted, and I love fluffy page-turners. I slowly felt alienated from the story. Some of the writing was actually pretty bad (I think describing someones eyes "like Werther's Originals" is one of the most cringe-inducing comparisons I have ever read in a published novel), but the story's pace moved well, and I was intrigued by the developing mystery.

I actually felt offended by some of the passages that Ms Hansen wrote. I can suspend reality, but when one is writing about mental illness and suicide, a less hysterical viewpoint is needed. The story got more and more unbelievable until the very pat ending. Whatever lasting impact the writer had been hoping for was met with a giant eye-roll, glad that it was over.

This feels like it was written by a man in his 60s who has a distaste for liberal arts and women. All of the women's studies students are described as angry, hysterical and bitter, and, without giving away the completely unbelievable twist, the feminist theory professor is both mocked for being a lesbian and is written to be an insane man-hater who wants to literally castrate for revenge. Rush Limbaugh couldn't have written it better. There was also a rather bizarre current of "gay panic" to the writing, with a tacked-on anti-abortion message at the end.

There was nothing plausible about ANY of the plot points, and all of the characters were stereotypes. Has Ms Hansen spoken to a woman in her 20s since the 1980s? Has she ever known anyone who struggled with mental illness? Has suicide ever affected her or someone in her life? Has she actually even read - or understood - the works that she claims have inspired this novel? Trite, idiotic and offensive.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Setting aside the gross grammatical errors for a former English teacher, such as "naval" oranges at the top of page 56, and all the "just like her" rather than proper "just like she" phrases as possible typographical mistakes, the book is clearly written at a 5th-7th-grade level, not only at the level of sentence structure, but at a psychological scope as well. How many young women attempted suicide in the book? 5 or 6? More? I lost count. ALL of them over a man, the same man? Really? Puh-leeze. Not once was this concept questioned or confronted. Not even in the Reader's Guide. It is assumed, and accepted (as Hansen repeatedly makes the point that "silence means acceptance), that women will kill themselves over the loss of a man. Period. If this is a fluff "Beach Read" as the jacket quotes, why is there even a Reader's Guide? And if the text does not flesh out the obvious, do the discussion questions not have a responsibility to confront this serious issue? Hansen throws suicide around recklessly, as if women were inherently "emotionally unstable" (p. 237), and thinks she has a handle on the issue she claims is depression. Then, at the end of the book, she has Ruby lay key blame for her suicide on the manipulator of the whole affair (not the man), with the man and Ruby playing marginal roles. Really?
Entwined with these notions is the "illegality" of a professor sleeping with his students. While frowned upon and questionably unethical, sex between consenting adults is not illegal. Hansen, blithely throwing around Feminist and Gender studies with those razor blades and bottles of pills, wants everyone to know how evil it is, but she never deals with Why. Nor does the Reader's Guide.
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