3 out of 4 stars
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Butterfly by Kathleen Sullivan McDonald, despite following Bridget, a fictional character, is primarily the author's memoir about dealing with profound loneliness in the face of losing her loved ones. She leaves her family in Scotland to live in Florida, and she loses several members of her family, including her older brother, Patrick. After she has a dream where he visits her, she decides to become a nurse, a goal she pursues even while other people close to her pass away back in Scotland.
Right off the bat, it should be obvious that this is a character-driven story. There's relatively little dialogue. Instead, Bridget has many inner monologues, and the narrative often skips several years at a time or simply describes what is happening rather than providing specific scenes. This is especially prominent in the last part of the book, where Bridget is in school. Since the focus of the novel is Bridget's inner growth, this makes sense, but I can see people who are fans of vivid worldbuilding and individual scenes being turned off by this.
Bridget, as a character, is remarkably well-rounded. This makes sense, as she is a stand-in for the author herself, but it was still impressive how well the author was able to communicate her thoughts. The book is laid out in such a way that her character arc itself is clear and satisfying, with an effective resolution. Despite numerous time skips, the pacing works for what the author is trying to accomplish, and characters other than Bridget are realistic enough to not be distracting.
I was disappointed to see numerous grammatical errors, such as mixing up homonyms like "rye" and "wry," and several comma issues. These didn't pop up constantly, but they were distracting enough to disrupt reading whenever they occurred. The author's writing style also frequently sacrifices clarity for flowery language, and when this happens, it's very difficult to understand what the author even means to say. This was the only sub-par element of the novel for me, but it came up with such regularity that I kept wishing the book had been edited more thoroughly for clarity and grammar.
Ultimately, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It would have earned a better rating if it had been edited more thoroughly, but as it stands, it is a gripping memoir about how the author coped with losing people close to her and even being separated from her country of origin. If any of these topics are of interest to you, this book is worth checking out.
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