Jadan B. Grace,
Anna Chase & the Butterfly Girls
(Echelon Press, 2002)

One of the most difficult things to find today is a great story to recommend for a young adult reader. Younger people in this age range are too old for almost anything in the Young Reader section of a store, but much of what is in the regular fiction section may not interest them. Anna Chase & the Butterfly Girls is a wonderful, gentle story that I would recommend to anyone, including teen readers, looking for an enjoyable read.

Jadan B. Grace employs one of my most favorite literary tactics in this book by delivering a story within a story. The narrative flows along between both plot lines without losing the reader along the way. While I personally would have liked to see some of the main characters develop further, all of the characters are extremely likeable. This tale is wonderfully written and comfortably delightful.

Anna Chase has had a particularly rough year. Her husband, Christian, was lost in a shipwreck, leaving Anna alone to raise their daughter Brandy. In the midst of war, employment is difficult to find and even more difficult to maintain. Anna has had her share of suitors who offer security for both her and Brandy, but Anna simply cannot bring herself to think of remarrying after her painful loss. Anna escapes by keeping a diary in which she writes the story of the Butterfly Girls, tales born from bedtime stories told to Brandy.

Lady Willow, headmistress of the Butterfly Haven Girls Finishing School and agricultural innovator, has also suffered the loss of her husband and faces the challenge of raising her daughters, Laurel and Niobe, alone. When Baron Ashbury rescues Lady Willow from nearly drowning, the two become fast friends. Ashbury has also suffered the loss of a spouse; however, his pain is compounded as he lost his children in the same flood that took his wife.

Developments in the tale of the Butterfly Girls reflect the positive changes that occur in AnnaŐs life. She finds employment as a seamstress and finds that she not only is an extremely talented designer, but she also has a keen business sense. Before long Anna is all but running the shop and is helping other characters out of their poverty-stricken situations and into the limelight. The progressive transformation of AnnaŐs character through the changes in her circumstances is reminiscent of the life of a butterfly, inextricably linking her to the characters in her diary story. After a time of seclusion and subsequent growth, Anna emerges from her cocoon ready to take on the world.

I realize that this story might sound overly sweet, and I donŐt want to give anyone an improper impression. The characters and story are so enjoyable and genial that I kept waiting for something terrible to happen to at least one of them; alas, one big bombshell of a plot twist toward the end of the story shakes things up a bit. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Anna Chase & the Butterfly Girls; it was a fantastic escape for a sunny afternoon.

[ by Carie Morrison ]
Rambles: 16 June 2002