Book Review: THE BUTTERFLY SISTER by Amy Gail Hansen

Publisher: William Morrow
Released: August 6, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Eight months after dropping out of Tarble, an all-women’s college, twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is still haunted by the memories of her senior year-a year marred by an affair with her English professor and a deep depression that not only caused her to question her own sanity but prompted a failed suicide attempt.

And then a mysterious paisley print suitcase arrives, bearing Ruby’s name and address on the tag. When Ruby tries to return the luggage to its rightful owner, Beth Richards, her dorm mate at Tarble, she learns that Beth disappeared two days earlier, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence as to her whereabouts.

Consumed by the mystery of the missing girl and the contents of the luggage-a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the book on which Ruby based her senior thesis, and which she believes instigated her madness-she sets out to uncover the truth, not only about Beth Richards’s past but also her own. In doing so, Ruby is forced to reexamine the people from her past: the professor who whisked her away to New Orleans and then shattered her heart and the ghosts of dead women writers who beckoned her to join their illustrious group. And when Ruby’s storyline converges with Beth’s in a way she never imagined, she returns to the one place she swore she never would: her alma mater.


THE BUTTERFLY SISTER had a strong beginning, but somewhere around the half-way point, the story derailed and had trouble recovering. The book presents an intriguing mystery. The suitcase of a missing woman is delivered to Ruby Rousseau, and it turns out the two lived in the same dorm at Tarble College. Ruby is still shattered by the fact that an affair with her married English professor ended badly, with Ruby being dumped and then trying to kill herself. In the suitcase, Ruby finds clues to what may have happened to the missing woman, and she’s compelled to return to Tarble and face her demons.

I enjoyed the first half of the book as the story alternated between present day and a year ago during her affair with Mark, her English professor. Mark was the charming, smart, and handsome older man, and young, naive Ruby fell for him hard, even though he was married. I think part of it was Ruby trying to fill a void in her life, though it was still a dumb move. During a romantic getaway to New Orleans, some strange things start happening to Ruby, like seeing the ghosts of dead writers following her. The Gothic elements were nice and creepy, and I only wish they had been a bigger part of the story. In present day, Ruby is searching for the link between what happened to her and Beth Richard’s disappearance.

The second half of the book didn’t live up to the first. Some of what happened was downright unbelievable, like the reason behind Beth’s disappearance and how it happened. I also thought it was unlikely that a college professor could get away with such unethical conduct with students as long as Mark did. I wasn’t happy that the women characters were so unstable and for the most part, unlikable. THE BUTTERFLY SISTER had its memorable moments and surprising twists, though overall it was just an okay read.

Rating: 2¾ Stars