Butterfly: Part One

Written by Edwin Page
Review by Sally Zigmond

Cameroon, West Africa, 1860. Yannick and his younger sister, Amma, are slaves, so they understand hardship and cruelty. But their life is to change drastically when Yannick is sold to Atlantic slave-traders. He suffers greatly on the infamous Middle Passage but is determined to return to his sister one day.

On arrival in Virginia, he is bought by Mr. Johnson, who owns Beaver Creek, a tobacco plantation. Luck is on his side because he has green eyes. Mrs. Johnson sees house slaves as museum exhibits to astound her dinner guests. She already has a pair of identical twins, an albino and a pygmy, and likewise puts Yannick on display. Softening the humiliation is Chester, a wise old slave who takes Yannick under his wing and loves him like a son. Yannick learns quickly; he has a sharp, inquiring mind.

He soon discovers the master and mistress share a cruel secret. They have locked their disobedient daughter, Tabitha, in an attic and the slaves feed her once a day. She reads, thinks a lot, and teaches Yannick a different set of rules from those Chester imparts. For instance, she tells him that beyond the Ohio River, there is freedom. Yannick takes the chance to free them both, but will he succeed?

I would have enjoyed this novel had it not been so slow, long, and repetitious. An author may be prolific but not prolix; the book would benefit from editing to avoid repetition and long-windedness. Despite a few heart-stopping moments, by the time I read the last page, I was too exhausted to read one sentence more, let alone part two.