I came upon this book through a recommendation list and was unhealthily excited about it. Girls escaping a sick kidnapper with a penchant for butterflies? Sounds thrilling indeed. And the book did deliver to some points; I’m not saying it’ll squeeze you in a suspenseful grip, but it presents a chilling tale of girls and monsters.
The story starts with the FBI stumbling upon a giant kidnap case that they didn’t even know is related. Traumatized girls who can’t even say their names are rushed to the hospital to receive treatment, and one especially stands out as a leader among them. As a key witness, she slowly unravels the tale of how she and the other girls got there.
The best thing about this book is its worldbuilding. The author creates a claustrophobic, realistic microcosm where everything is provided for you in a huge glass dome. There’s a garden with a pond, exotic plants and flowers, food, and a place to sleep. Except, you can never get out. Maya, the protagonist wakes up in this paradise/prison, also called the Garden, after being kidnapped on the street by “The Gardener.” In here, she finds out there are more girls like her, with butterfly wings tattooed on their backs. And like all butterflies, they are ephemeral and have an expiration date.
The author builds up a certain psychological tension and apprehension through day-to-day encounters that culminates into a horrifying big picture. Death is constanly looming over everyone’s head, and anyone could be next. Even so, there are those among them who believe they could earn the Gardener’s affection. I think that’s what scared me a little, because the human mind is so unpredictable. Maybe some may think it’s trivial and boring to see girls surviving each in their own way under the hands of a monster, but I appreciated it. I was constantly revolted by the disturbing parts and details, which is exactly what the author intended.
The characters are also quite fleshed out. Maya is a tough girl with an almost implausibly sad background: abandoned by her divorced parents to her grandmother, ran away from home when her grandmother died, and making a living by herself ever since. Her intelligence and resilience gained through her rough childhood are what kept her alive and strong in the Garden. I also admire her sass and humor during her interactions with the police investigators, because who ever has time for humor when they’re kept as pets by a psycho? Yet Maya and many other girls pulled through. I was also pleased with the secondary characters, because they are heartbreaking and elicited so many emotions from me.
Plot & Pacing
The plot is not exactly fast-paced, but still filled with action. It’s divided between the FBI interrogation (Present) and Maya’s tale about the Garden and herself (Past). There are some unappetizing romance and one plot twist at the end I didn’t really care for, but other than that, I was quite happy how the tale turned out.
This book gives the readers a tale of one unbalanced fiend captured and broke so many girls like fragile butterflies and tenacious, strong women who fought back as best as they could. The Butterfly Garden was a satisfyingly gruesome book for those interested in kidnap cases, and fetishes, and old rich psychopaths.
Would you try this book? Do you have any similar recommendations about kidnapping or escape stories?
The Butterfly Garden
Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.
In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.
When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.
As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…