“Too much sorrow could deform the spirit.”
When the opera, Madame Butterfly, closes we are left with the geisha Cio-Cio slain by her own hand while holding onto the fierce hope that her son will be taken to America by his father. It is from this point that Butterfly’s Child continues. Within its beautifully written pages is the rest of the story as Angela Davis-Gardner has imagined it.
Naval Lieutenant Pinkerton has returned to Japan with his new wife, Kate. When he discovers that his lover has left behind their son, he takes the boy to the farm on which he lives. But, he cannot escape either his love for Cio-Cio, nor the implications that Benji is indeed his son. It does no good to pretend that he is adopted, as Pinkerton maintains. Benji knows the truth, and so, in fact, does anyone else who looks at this Japanese boy with light hair.
I loved this book. It created huge empathy within me for each of the characters. Foremost, I felt for Benji who discovered his mother’s photograph sewn within a hidden pocket in his kimono. Unable to bear the thought of losing it, he finally hides it with the help of his veterinarian friend under lock and key. So touching that this is all he has of his beloved mother, and that he struggles every day to live in a strange and new country with a less than empathetic father.
But he is not the only one who struggles. Kate struggles with her husband loving his dead concubine. She struggles with living under the rule of his mother-in-law who has come to ‘help’. She struggles with giving Pinkerton a son of their own.
Pinkerton struggles with the work of the farm. He struggles with emotions that cannot be assuaged no matter how much he drinks alone in his attic study. He struggles with the love, and hate, that he feels for Benji.
This is not a novel of hopelessness, though. It is a brilliantly told story which stirs great emotion within my heart. I loved it. It will be in my top ten list of books read for this year.
“Extraordinary…To give away any of the astonishing plot twists and revelations would deny the reader the thrill of a totally transforming and satisfying finale.” ~The Washington Post