In the Time of the Butterflies
It is November 25, 1960, and the bodies of three beautiful, convent-educated sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. El Caribe, the official newspaper, reports their deaths as an accident. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Raphael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everyone knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”
Now, three decades later, Julia Alvarez, also a daughter of the Dominican Republic and long haunted by these sisters, immerses us in a tangled and dangerous moment in Hispanic Caribbean history to tell their story in the only way it can truly be understood—through fiction. In this brilliantly characterized novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa, and Dede—speak across the decades, to tell their own stories—from hair ribbons to gunrunning to prison torture—and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule.
The Butterflies were extraordinary women. Minerva, once the object of the dictator’s desire, had dared to publicly slap his face. Devout Patria found her calling to the uprising through the church. Alluring—and vain—Maria Teresa joined in pursuit of romance. Only Dede, the practical one, the most diligent in her duty to family and tradition, kept apart. And only she survived to see that their names were remembered.
Now, through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again. And Dede joins them as a heroine of equal courage.
From the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents comes this tale of courage and sisterhood set in the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures--known as "las mariposas," or "the butterflies," in the underground--as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.
Alvarez's controlled writing perfectly captures the mounting tension as "the butterflies" near their horrific end. The novel begins with the recollections of Dede, the fourth and surviving sister, who fears abandoning her routines and her husband to join the movement. Alvarez also offers the perspectives of the other sisters: brave and outspoken Minerva, the family's political ringleader; pious Patria, who forsakes her faith to join her sisters after witnessing the atrocities of the tyranny; and the baby sister, sensitive Maria Teresa, who, in a series of diaries, chronicles her allegiance to Minerva and the physical and spiritual anguish of prison life.
In the Time of the Butterflies is an American Library Association Notable Book and a 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award nominee.