16 June 2009

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

Description from Amazon.com: "Agnes and Honey have always been best friends, but they haven’t always been so different. Agnes loves being a Believer. She knows the rules at the Mount Blessing religious commune are there to make her a better person. Honey hates Mount Blessing and the control Emmanuel, their leader, has over her life. The only bright spot is the butterfly garden she’s helping to build, and the journal of butterflies that she keeps. When Agnes’s grandmother makes an unexpected visit to the commune, she discovers a violent secret that the Believers are desperate to keep quiet. And when Agnes’s little brother is seriously injured and Emmanuel refuses to send him to a hospital, Nana Pete takes the three children and escapes the commune. Their journey begins an exploration of faith, friendship, religion and family for the two girls, as Agnes clings to her familiar faith while Honey desperately wants a new future."

It's a good thing business was slow at work while I was reading this book - I couldn't put it down. Galante shares a glimpse into the world of a conservative religious commune with the clarity born of personal experience; the remarkable thing is that she keeps opinion out of the narrative, presenting the story without preaching to the reader. The book's chapters alternate between Agnes' and Honey's points-of-view, giving the reader two very different sets of emotions and personalities, and two different private struggles.

This novel is a great find for young adults, highlighting the importance of friendships, honesty, and most importantly standing up for oneself. Galante's writing is crisp and unadorned, perfect for this kind of storytelling. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading more from Galante in the future!