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The Butterflies of Grand Canyon    by Margaret Erhart order for
Butterflies of Grand Canyon
by Margaret Erhart
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book
*   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

The Butterflies of Grand Canyon sounds like a nature publication rather than a work of fiction. On the other hand, the names of terra, flora and fauna, and especially Lepidoptera (specifically, butterflies) are profusely bandied about throughout the book. Apparently, in 1950's Arizona, butterfly collecting was quite the rage. Lepidoptera-centric activities are central to the development of the plot; the other plot thread centers on a thirteen-year-old unresolved murder that seems linked to marital infidelity. This novel is an unusual, hard-to-define work.

The characters are an assortment of park rangers, intellectuals, and avid, well-informed hobbyists. Unfortunately, they, and their mates and friends, have a difficult time remaining faithful to their spouses. A lot of ignoring and overlooking goes on, and I suppose the fickle behavior of the butterfly is meant as a metaphor for the morally shallow people for whom we are intended to feel compassion. The mystery of the death is almost an afterthought, taking so distant a second place to the characters' uninspiring, tedious lives, that the reader almost forgets about it, until the last quarter of the book when its relevance is explained - and that's not even exciting.

I'm afraid I found the book to be unsuspenseful and boring. As a former resident of Arizona, I was hoping it would be otherwise. If you appreciate stilted language, have a love of butterfly collecting, or have a particular fondness for literature set in the 1950's southwest, you may appreciate Erhart's The Butterflies of Grand Canyon in ways that I could not. It will possibly appeal to a precise, niche audience.

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