Author: Aimee Bender
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Book Description: The first novel in ten years from the author of the beloved New York Times bestseller The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake, a luminous, poignant tale of a mother, a daughter, mental illness, and the fluctuating barrier between the mind and the world
On the night her single mother is taken to a mental hospital after a psychotic episode, eight year-old Francie is staying with her babysitter, waiting to take the train to Los Angeles to go live with her aunt and uncle. There is a lovely lamp next to the couch on which she’s sleeping, the shade adorned with butterflies. When she wakes, Francie spies a dead butterfly, exactly matching the ones on the lamp, floating in a glass of water. She drinks it before the babysitter can see.
Twenty years later, Francie is compelled to make sense of that moment, and two other incidents — her discovery of a desiccated beetle from a school paper, and a bouquet of dried roses from some curtains. Her recall is exact — she is sure these things happened. But despite her certainty, she wrestles with the hold these memories maintain over her, and what they say about her own place in the world.
As Francie conjures her past and reduces her engagement with the world to a bare minimum, she begins to question her relationship to reality. The scenes set in Francie’s past glow with the intensity of childhood perception, how physical objects can take on an otherworldly power. The question for Francie is, What do these events signify? And does this power survive childhood?
Told in the lush, lilting prose that led the San Francisco Chronicle to say Aimee Bender is “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language,” The Butterfly Lampshade is a heartfelt and heartbreaking examination of the sometimes overwhelming power of the material world, and a broken love between mother and child.
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars
Review: I can’t believe this is Bender’s first novel in 10 years. Her last book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a book that I still think about. Lucky for us, I don’t think you will be disappointed by her new book.
Bender wrote a very nuanced story of Francie, who is taken from her mother after she has to go to a mental hospital. She has a very loving Aunt and Uncle who assume all responsibility for her. There are a series of events that take place close together, that affect her for the next 20 years.
This is a very fluid story that bends time, between the past and the present. Francie spends a lot of time dissecting her relationships with her mother, cousin, grandparents and aunt. The writing is almost poetic, everything just flows naturally.
If you have liked Aimee Bender’s previous books then, try this one. If you have never read any of her books, this is not a bad place to start. You might want to have a couple of tissues handy.