The Last Butterfly

Fiction - Literary
379 Pages
Reviewed on 10/23/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The Last Butterfly by Paul Sean Hill is an intensely moving, multi-generational story that explores the relationships we have with one another and the incredible and often unforeseen linkages and effects our actions have on others. Small-town Grayton, East Texas is the setting for this tale which combines tragedy, pathos, hope, and beauty all within one sweeping narrative. Ed and Margo Schmutz are part of a larger tragedy that will affect many people throughout the generations. Nobody knows the pain they have experienced in their lives but as they allow this pain to fester and grow, they both arrive at ways to make the society that has done them such wrong "pay.” Their desire to lash out at those they consider responsible and punish everyone for their own sad and miserable lives will lead the pair down different but ultimately converging paths of destruction. Not everyone affected by the tragedy in this small town will react the same way as the Schmutz’s. Out of the pain and grief of loss will come some who spread love, happiness, and inspiration to all who come into contact with them. Jodie and Jo Denning, like butterflies, will spread grace and joy wherever they are but are their choices to embrace and enjoy life and love to the fullest enough to wipe out the choices of those who would share their misery and suffering with the rest of us?

I read a lot of books and few books are capable of moving this cynical old man to the point of tears but The Last Butterfly was certainly capable of doing just that. Author Paul Sean Hill has drawn his characters to the extremes of good and evil for a reason -- to evoke our emotions -- and he does exactly that. Ed and Margo Schmutz are beautifully drawn as the villains of the piece who live an almost soulless existence together but yet still far apart. For me the book is perfectly summed up by Nancilee in her commencement address; we as individuals and as a society are shaped by three things; nature, nurture, and choice. Good choices tend to help us and everyone around us whereas bad choices get in the way of what we want to achieve and can ultimately hurt us and those around us. What I particularly got out of the story was that our future lives are shaped by what we think and do, not so much by who we are. The author’s choice to use the Monarch Butterfly to illustrate the lessons of this story was inspired. So often during the reading I was reminded of that old story of a butterfly flapping its wings in South America causing a cyclone in the U.S. Our thinking, our decisions, and our actions can have a lasting impact in places we never even thought of, and for people we’ve never even met. This story is warm, inspiring, and deeply impactful. I highly recommend this read which is right up there amongst my favorite books read this year.

K.C. Finn

The Last Butterfly is a work of fiction penned in the literary style by author Paul Sean Hill and falls into the mystery and drama subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. This in-depth novel explores the profound impact that seemingly small interactions and choices can have on our lives. The story follows Jo Deming, who, at a young age, stumbles upon a significant cache of evidence that could change everything. However, her discovery couldn't have come at a more inopportune time, and she is thrust into a world filled with darkness and uncertainty. The narrative delves into the concept of butterfly moments: those chance encounters and decisions that can alter the course of our lives. It beautifully captures the idea that we often only recognize these moments in hindsight and how they can lead to both incredible joy and devastating sorrow.

Author Paul Sean Hill has carefully crafted a thought-provoking story that encourages readers to appreciate the beauty and fragility of life and the enduring impact of our actions. The characters, especially Jo's mother, Jodie, and the Schmutz couple, are vividly portrayed, each representing different approaches to life's challenges. The contrast between Jodie's ability to inspire hope and the Schmutzes' destructive schemes highlights the book's central theme of resilience and the power of positivity. The delivery of dialogue feels so realistic at times that the characters could be right there with you in the room. Overall, The Last Butterfly is a work that inspires a reflective experience, reminding us of the interconnectedness of our lives and the significance of the choices we make, both big and small. I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Ronél Steyn

Paul Sean Hill brings us a beautiful literary novel in The Last Butterfly. Ed and Margo Schmutz are happy. They are in love and the future is looking bright for them. In an instant, their plans are ripped out of their hands and transformed into ashes. Because of that same tragedy, Jodie is brought into this life when her mother dies. Raised by her grandparents, Jodie has an amazing gift that makes people feel happy and at peace just by being near her. Her daughter Jo has that gift too. As for Ed and Margo, bitterness and anger take root and strangle any goodness. What will happen when these paths finally meet again after going their separate ways all those years ago?

Author Paul Sean Hill has woven an amazing tapestry of links that creates this wonderful story. Written in the third person narrative, the author enabled me as a reader to be privy to the thoughts and feelings of each of the characters. This definitely enhanced my sense of empathy as I was able to understand how and why the characters chose the roads they did. I understood the misery and the heartache of a loss so profound. I understood choosing life and happiness in the wake of tragedy. Recommended for all literary fans, the author assuredly has a unique talent in that the reader is able to feel those emotions as they are portrayed. The characters are very relatable, and I can say with certainty that reading this book is a butterfly moment in itself.

Jamie Michele

In the literary fiction novel, The Last Butterfly by Paul Sean Hill, married couple Ed and Margo are devastated by loss and further let down by the legal system, a cataclysm that also leads to Mark Hammock's isolation and heavy drinking. Jodie Lucky and Joe Deming have their lives jolted when Jodie's cerebral hemorrhage affects both deeply. Margo, now bitter and vengeful, tampers with test scores at Grayton High School over the years. Jodie's daughter, Jo, and Nancilee have an enduring friendship, overcoming bullying and loss of their own. Jo finds herself moved by a discussion on monarch butterflies, and on a separate occasion, Ed feels similarly at a butterfly reserve. Every character has been burned by emotional trauma, but they all appear to coalesce when two students are unknowingly thrust into a baptism of fire.

Grief at the levels that Paul Sean Hill is able to make palpable through the pages of his book only works when they are stabilized by hope, and The Last Butterfly has hope in abundance. The analogy of the butterfly is the clearest, but other more nuanced versions are smoothly incorporated, such as the sunlight that represents healing and the presence of the deceased. Hill brilliantly shifts this later, with light transitioning to a precursor of pain when a light is flicked on to see better and, in fact, means tragedy. Also, there is the house Joe and Jodie built, representing their shared dream, and the trailer, symbolizing their simple and close-knit life. Again, Hill tightens the tension when his story takes another sharp turn. "Joe heard Jo’s voice on his cell phone; he couldn’t make out what she was saying, but he knew it was bad.” The Last Butterfly is a book for literary fiction lovers of big epics taking shape in small towns. It's beautiful. Very highly recommended.

Asher Syed

The Last Butterfly by Paul Sean Hill is set in a small East Texas town, beginning with the lives of Ed, Carl, and Hildie. A tragic turn leads to Ed's later life, his marriage to Margo, and their own encounters with tragedy, injustice, and negativity. Jodie, Joe, Jo Dee, and Nancilee are also introduced, each facing their own challenges and grief, cumulatively exploring the impact of seemingly unrelated events on people's lives. Margo, who clandestinely manipulates test scores at a high school, railroads the lives of students, while Mark's journey toward personal growth and forgiveness is influenced by his interactions with Jodie. Ed becomes involved in a project related to monarch butterflies and technology, while Jo and Nancilee's curiosity leads them to a mysterious cabinet that has catastrophic and tragic consequences.

I absolutely loved The Last Butterfly by Paul Sean Hill, a work of literary fiction that has quite a few threads that all start to weave together as the story progresses using the metaphor of women who are butterflies, symbols of strength and beauty emerging against all odds. However, the most pleasant surprise for me is the real butterflies that come into play as well. The mention of the monarch butterfly decline, which Margo finds amusing, foreshadows the larger consequences of her actions, homing in on the fragility of all ecosystems and the consequences of human interference. Hill has such well-developed characters that we truly do feel like we know them. Jamie's entitlement and bullying, Jo's resilience and empathy, and Nancilee's ability to handle tough situations show that from ancillary to main characters, Hill gives them all authentic treatment. Overall, this is a well-written, thought-provoking, and wonderful story that I have no doubt will be embraced by readers who value intelligent fiction.