2018 Reading List: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

Welcome to the Garden, a wondrous, magical place where it’s always warm, the sun is shining, the waterfall lulls you to sleep, the grass is lush, you have friends and books and games, you have healthy food to eat, and all the time in the world to do as you please. But this, my friends, is not the garden of Eden. This is your nightmare. 

In Dot Hutchinson’s book, The Butterfly Garden, we learn about the Garden and its Gardener through one of the “residents” as she is interrogated after escaping. She had been there for two and a half years.

Hers is a tale pieced together through memories and anecdotes in a meandering, almost haphazard way. Oddly to me, she began her story with where she came from and her childhood, rather than the meat of what she’d gone through and how she had gotten out. It was a story for a novel, not the way someone would actually tell it, if they were really being interview by the FBI. But the stop and go nature of her testimony as she recounts each detail made this book the page-turner that it was. Telling her story in this nonlinear way made you keep wondering what was next and made you lose track of the very details that are the most important at the end of the book.

To give you the overview, our heroine, Maya as she is known in the Garden, is kidnapped and taken to an old man’s greenhouse, where he keeps other young women. He tatoos butterfly wings on their backs and rapes them whenever he feels like. But this manipulative psychopath gives them everything they want in the Garden. They have what he would call a home there – bedrooms with luxurious linens, whatever hobbies of choice they each might want, delicious, healthy food, friends, and his own affection.

He truly believes that they should be happy and that he is doing the right thing.

The more that Maya reveals during the interview, the more that the FBI, and the readers, feel that there’s way more to the story than she’s letting on. In fact, she’s so strategic about the details she gives away that the FBI actually think that she’s involved. Which is preposterous once you hear what she actually has to say.

I can’t tell you more than that, as much as I want to. Any other thing I say will ruin the book for you, and you just need to read it for yourself.

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