Scent of Butterflies

Written by Dora Levy Mossanen
Review by Kathryn Johnson

One need not dive far back into history to begin the story of Soraya, heroine of Scent of Butterflies. It is 1999 in Iran when she first becomes suspicious that her husband has defiled their marriage by taking up with her dearest friend. Shoraya had believed her husband was different from other Iranian husbands, that he would be true to her. Unable to force herself to remain with him, despite her desperate love for him, unable also to forgive the delicate butterfly of a woman who has betrayed her, Soraya flees her beloved country to America. There she plots revenge against her husband.

If the story were only that—a tale of love betrayed, the unfaithful spouse punished—there would be little more to say. However, Mossanen only uses these motifs as a starting point for examining the differences between two cultures. Layered over plot are lavish details of Soraya’s old life back in Iran, revealing a culture in which women of elite families are pampered but also restrained on a “diamond-studded leash.” Soraya has little say over her destiny, financially or legally. The difference between her and her friends is that she dares to break free. But when she attempts to create a new life for herself in Los Angeles, with the help of Mansour, an Iranian-born chauffer, she is overwhelmed by culture shock. In the end, the truth she discovers is no less shocking than the events that caused her to flee her native country.