Book Reviews and Reception

From the initial release of Julia Alvarez’s novel, In The Time Of The Butterflies, a large portion of the population really seem to enjoy the novel. They made note of the fact that the writer is ethnic and that the story was a step in a new or interesting direction for that period of time. The LA Times made note that Alvarez had a unique skill of not letting the message of the novel interfere with the characters and their actions. Instead, the message and the themes are woven throughout the novel and never comes off as preachy. What is interesting is that it seemed like several of the reviews tend to not enjoy the jumping protagonist in each chapter and that the voices were too similar. One review felt that that the story structure didn’t work and would have been better as a biography. The initial reviews seem to be more fair of the novel, but a little critical of Alvarez. Almost all the reviews felt the story was great. They bash her for her controversial choice of allowing Dede’s story be in a form of a novel but also feel the need to mention her ethic and gender background praising her, as they felt she was the only one capable of telling this story. The novel was republished ten years later and several reviews felt that the novel is necessary now more than ever. The New York Journal Of Books gave it high praise, noting its political impact through art and graceful story telling.

Los Angeles Times:


Ancient lessons, these, that need retelling in every age as new evasions rise against the old, hard truths: by compassion we rob our tormentors of their power. By living fully we survive our deaths; by surviving we enable memory. …Alvarez’s exploration of Las Mariposas and their families is a valuable and necessary addition to the small but growing collection of literary works launched by recent headlines out of Central America and the Caribbean. May their kind increase.” ― Review by Joanne Omang

“It is part of Alvarez’s skill as a writer that the larger themes she takes on don’t obtrude too much through the voices of Dede and her sisters. Each of them becomes aware at different times of Trujillo’s reign of terror.” ― Review by Joanne Omang

In the telling, though, the four sisters are defined more by what they did than who they were, their voices not always as distinctive as they might be. I found myself occasionally checking back to see which of them was speaking.” ― Review by Joanne Omang

read the full review here

The Washington Post:


Seamlessly weaving together the domestic and the political, Alvarez tells a lyrical story of revolution where the totality of a woman’s life — the babies, the sex, the professional aspirations, the pretty dresses and the gardens — is discussed in the same breath as stockpiles of guns and wiring bombs.” ― Review by Elsa Walsh

ALVAREZ joins a growing list of ethnic writers breaking into mainstream American literature, but as with the best and most authentic side of diversity, her voice is a universal one.” ― Review by Elsa Walsh

read the full review here

Kirkus Review:


Brimming with warmth and vitality― Review by Kirkus Review

Alvarez’s voice is her own, grounded in realism yet alive with the magic of everyday human beings who summon extraordinary courage and determination to fight for their beliefs.― Review by Kirkus Review

read the full review here.

Pop Matters:


It’s within this context that Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies speaks to the martyrdom of these women through imagining the conditions of their hearts and the perseverance of a people, a land, and a culture. The Dominican Republic will transcend current troubles just as it transformed itself since the murders of the Mirabal sisters in 1960. Alvarez beautifully captured that vision in 1994. Reading it again in 2019 proves that the strength of this story is still as vital as ever.― Review by Christopher John Stephens

As sophomore efforts go, Alvarez’s voice secure and confident as she tells her story of the Mirabal sisters.― Review by Christopher John Stephens

read the full review here.

New York Journal of Books:


And yet, in all the emotion around the political and social gifts of this novel, there is one reason for its impact and one reason only, and that reason is artistic: it is first and foremost a great story, richly, gracefully told.― Review by Anjanette Delgado 

“And that may be so in that they brought to the surface important conversations around the themes of heroism, feminism, country, courage, patriotism, and identity—this last one especially so for the millions of girls who read her books.”― Review by Anjanette Delgado 

“Not only did this novel, her novel, and only one of her over 20 published books, single-handedly generate mass, global awareness of the story of her country’s resistance through the conjoined figure of the Mirabal Sisters, it has also kept the story alive for over 25 years, inspiring movies, plays, dances, commemorative coins, and even the establishment by the United Nations of November 25, the day of their murder, as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”― Review by Anjanette Delgado 

read the full review here.


In the Time of the Butterflies Homepage

Simon Glover, Libby Masi, & Aeon Scott, 2019

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