Sunday, December 12, 2010

Butterfly’s Child by Alan Chin

Reviewed by Jeff Graubart, author of The Quest For Brian
Pubished by Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 274

Rating: Five Stars

From opera to horse opera, Alan Chin takes the reader on an exciting journey into the rough and tumble West in Butterfly’s Child. In the early chapters, Chin uses his literary skill to make us feel the Zen of piano tuning, much as he did with tennis, in the Match Maker. But, he has a more difficult time exploiting that talent for the Zen of barren life on a dilapidated ranch. Perhaps that is intentional, since there is an undercurrent of violence that runs through the novel like the Bitter Water River runs through the Nevada land.

Although Butterfly’s Child seems to be a formulaic family values western, its greater-than-life heroes are gay men and lesbians. Chin shows us an extended family whose roots are as old as humanity and as new as same-sex marriage. At the same time, he weaves a tale of three fathers and three sons. We are treated to the thoughts of Jem, a seven-year-old boy, as he begins to understand his own sexuality. The close bond between Jem and the hero, Cord, is reflected by the two of them sharing in the telling of the story.

My only criticism of the novel is its excessive machismo. I wanted to strangle Cord when he failed to bring in the sympathetic sheriff for the climactic showdown. But that too, is probably intentional. A gay super hero whose reason is clouded by love for his family is a powerful political statement.

Butterfly’s Child is a pleasure to read. You can read it for pure entertainment or something deeper. Even the title is both an obvious metaphor and several more subtle ones. Alan Chin continues to establish himself as a writer of intelligent and entertaining novels.

1 comment:

Victor J. Banis said...

Sounds intriguing - and, yes, I suspect that very little in Alan's writing is unintentional, though it may sometimes seem that way. He always knows just where he is going.