Iron Butterfly follows the rise of the Bennetts, an Italian-American family. The family patriarch, Guy Bennett, has built a successful construction company and has given his wife and three children a privileged life in the suburbs. While the family has heard all about Guy’s side of the family, they’ve never heard much from their mother about her Italian relatives or why she doesn’t talk about her family’s village back in Italy. In an attempt to learn more, her son Edward decides to take a trip to the small town while he is studying abroad. He finds the original village has been destroyed by an earthquake but he manages to meet some of his cousins. It is only later back at home that he discovers the horror and terrors of his mother’s childhood and why she has never been able to return.
I like this story about searching for the past even though it might lead to discovering unexpected events and emotions. I think it’s something all families can relate to on some level, even if their stories aren’t defined by war or secret histories. I knew right away that there would be something interesting to discover about Marie’s past. Although I have to admit, after Edward’s first visit to Lavenna, I was perhaps a tad bit disappointed because I had expected Edward to discover some scandal. Instead, he assumed the fact that Marie’s mother had been deported back to Italy from the United States due to her illness was the reason she avoided the topic of her past. As I read on, I discovered a much more layered and intricate story of a traumatic and horrifying history of war and destruction and how it shaped not only Marie’s life but also a whole village.
I loved the way the author created lively dialogues between family members in this tale. It sometimes felt like I was sitting at a kitchen table with people I knew. The description of Marie’s ordeal as a child was also well depicted. There was only one area in the story where I wondered what the author wanted to convey. That was when Edward started hallucinating at the cemetery in Lavenna. The commentary at the end shed some light on the meaning of this event. I did, however, have mixed feelings about the commentary. I would have preferred it to be part of an introduction. As a reader, I would rather be prepared for the story than told afterward how I was supposed to interpret it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the Bennett family’s journey into the past, and this book did more than enough to make me interested in the books that are to follow in this trilogy.
|Andrew Eustace Anselmi
|Level Best Books
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