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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.