Revolutionary Lives


“In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez is a powerful story about four sisters caught up in the fever of revolution during the Trujillo years in the Dominican Republic.  It is historical fiction based on a similar event.  The story is told by each sister, in turn, through diary and journal entries.

Dede is the sister who survived the revolution and reflects back on the lives of her sisters.  Minerva is the bold sister that wants to be a lawyer.  When she is denied her degree by Trujillo it fans her revolutionary fervor. Patria is the oldest sister and she is deeply faithful and joins the revolution after witnessing the death of a young revolutionary cut down by Trujillo’s men at a religious retreat.  Maria Teresa is the youngest sister and she becomes involved for the opportunity to spend time with a man, but quickly embraces the cause.

Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa are eventually imprisoned by the government for their activities, as are their husbands.  As they continue to petition for their release and the release of their husbands the revolution loses its impetus.  Released but under house arrest they live under constant surveillance and fear.

This was really a gripping story for me.   The story spans the late 1930’s to 1960, with the current part being in 1994. Alvarez creates a vivid world of danger and dictatorship that those of us in the ‘free world’ can only imagine. The female characters were all different from each other but each strong in their own way.  Yet they each had vulnerabilities that they fought to overcome. The writing was descriptive and engaging.

This is a great read.

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