Book Review: A Butterfly in Philadelphia

Book Review: A Butterfly in Philadelphia by Bruce Hartman ★★★★★

A Butterfly in Philadelphia is the first book I’ve read in some time that wasn’t on my review list for Reader’s Favorite. The story doesn’t fit neatly into any genre, but if I had to choose an audience for it, I’d say that audience should include everyone. That means you, mister (miss?). If you haven’t read it, you should put it at the very top of your ‘must read’ list. Rush out and buy it right now (or just click the image to the left to get it on Amazon).

Reader’s Favorite requires reviews to be in a certain format, and while this one is not reviewed for that site, I’ve used that same format for my official review. I did that because if I didn’t, I would ramble on for ages about it and no one wants to read my five-thousand word recommendation for it.

The book is far more complex than you’d think by looking at the cover. Can putting the wrong puzzle piece in a box really result in Lindsay, the fourteen-year-old girl with an eating disorder, killing herself (if it doesn’t interfere with crew practice, that is)? Can that same misplaced puzzle piece result in a pedophile being arrested? Can a black man really hide in plain sight by just by picking up a serving tray? You’ll find the answers to all those questions and more. I won’t go into much more detail about it, assuming, of course, that you’ve taken my advice and already purchased your copy. Here is my official review:

Spencer Casey is a simple man from Philadelphia who never made much of a difference. When his aunt Lorraine sees a job posting in the local hair salon, he takes the job hoping to get the attention of Monique, the salon owner’s daughter. She doesn’t seem to notice. Now, Artistic Puzzles Inc. pays Spencer to not make much of a difference, chopping Masterpieces of Western Art into a thousand pieces at a time. When he starts chopping up ‘Chaos Scape 19’ by Armand Brigantine –cut into the same thousand pieces every time. Chaos: faithfully reproduced and neatly separated into identical boxes– Spencer is overcome by a sudden urge. Audrey, the bookkeeper art Artistic Puzzles Inc., once said that ‘A butterfly in China can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world just by flapping its wings.’ If a butterfly in China can cause a hurricane, Spencer figures, a simple man from Philly could probably make a bit of ruckus…

A Butterfly in Philadelphia follows the stories of a handful of people who are forever changed by Spencer’s small act of rebellion. Hartman does an excellent job merging third-person narration with first-person, journal-type entries to really bring the characters to life. The story is far more complex than the cover would suggest and I often found myself wondering if it was even possible that it would all come together in the end. Everything did come together, and it did so in a very satisfying way. The wonderfully ironic subplots, some of which I had forgotten about, all found their way back into the story, leaving me smiling at the outcome. A Butterfly in Philadelphia is a witty, clever, well-written story that should be at the top of your ‘must read’ list.

I seriously can’t say enough good things about this book.