The Butterfly Effect, Rachel Mans McKenney (Alcove Press, Dec 08, 2020)

I recently received an advanced reader’s edition of Rachel Mans McKenney’s upcoming release The Butterfly Effect.  This debut novel is quite remarkable, settling about the reader like a comforting hug or a blanket made by your grandmother.  It’s not artificially sweet, but rather naturally sweet, like the nectar the butterflies that flit about the novel feed upon.

Greta Oto prefers bugs to people, data to drama, and Lepidoptera to love.  In her world, things are black and white – there is no room for any grey.  The only person she’s really let in is her twin, Danny, and they’re not exactly on the best of terms.  With nothing holding her back, she heads to Costa Rica to research her beloved butterflies and avoid an Iowan winter.  But somewhere, a butterfly alighted on a flower, and Danny suffered an aneurysm.  And Danny, the good twin, the popular twin, the twin who could see colors in sound, was in serious condition.  Greta, full of regrets from past decisions, hurries to his side.

Socially awkward and matter of fact, Greta makes no attempt to play nice with Danny’s fiancée, Meg.  She is growly and disagreeable, showing her teeth whenever Meg tries to get too close.  Her ex-boyfriend Brandon is a different story entirely.  She had let him in.  His passion for butterflies had become her passion, and now she had to beg him for a job at the butterfly conservatory so she can get off Meg’s couch and keep her academic career from derailing after being removed from the Costa Rica research project.  It’s easy with him, easy to remind her how easy it was.  And with his pretty new girlfriend, being easy is dangerous.  Max is different.    One of Greta’s closest friends, Max understands her better than most.  Things with him are nice and uncomplicated, until they aren’t.  Add a mother who abandoned Greta and Danny after falling for a man other than their father, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a research project into families and what ‘home’ actually means.

Greta Oto’s prickly personality and the warmth of the novel make it a rather easy comparison to A Man Called Ove, but it has a distinct heartbeat as fragile and powerful as the wings of glasswing or a swallowtail.  This well-written and feel-good story of science, facts, family, and healing should certainly find a home on your shelves, because we all need a hug, whether we realize it or not.

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