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Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Patron Saint of Butterflies

by Cecilia Galante


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The Patron Saint of Butterflies

by Cecilia Galante

Reviewed September 11, 2009.
Bloomsbury, New York, 2008. 292 pages.

Agnes and Honey have lived all their lives at Mount Blessing. They have always been friends, always done things together.

But now that Agnes is past twelve and was given a copy of The Saints' Way by their blessed leader, Emmanuel, she would like to be a saint. Perhaps it will take fasting, or punishing herself if she does something wrong, but she wants to live a holy life.

Honey, on the other hand, would rather push the boundaries. Her mother left her at Mount Blessing when she was a baby. When Honey's caught kissing a boy, she's labelled a harlot -- in red marker, next to the welts on her back from her whipping.

When Agnes' grandmother Nana Pete finds out, she wants to rescue the girls and Agnes' brother Benny from the commune for good. But there are some secrets in their pasts that need to be cleared up, and Nana Pete's health is precarious, and Agnes does not want to leave her parents or her home. And she certainly doesn't want to give up the call to the life of a saint. Certainly Emmanuel can't do anything wrong, can he?

This powerful and thought-provoking novel pulls you in and lets you see both girls' perspective at once. Will they be able to break free?