Review: The Butterfly Effect by Rachel Mans McKenny

I have no excuse for letting this book sit around as long as it did… I wish I had read it sooner, but it was definitely the perfect book for me right now.

What it’s about

A feminist Man Called Ove meets Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project in this rollicking tale of a grumpy introvert, her astonishing lack of social conduct and empirical data-driven approach to people and relationships.

Is there such a thing as an anti-social butterfly? If there were, Greta Oto would know about it—and totally relate. Greta far prefers the company of bugs to humans, and that’s okay, because people don’t seem to like her all that much anyway, with the exception of her twin brother, Danny, though they’ve recently had a falling out. So when she lands a research gig in the rainforest, sh leaves it all behind.

But when Greta learns that Danny has suffered an aneurysm and is now hospitalized, she abandons her research and hurries home to the middle of nowhere America to be there for her brother. But there’s only so much she can do, and unfortunately just like insects, humans don’t stay cooped up in their hives either–they buzz about and… socialize. Coming home means confronting all that she left behind, including her lousy soon-to-be sister-in-law, her estranged mother, and her ex-boyfriend Brandon who has conveniently found a new non-lab-exclusive partner with shiny hair, perfect teeth, and can actually remember the names of the people she meets right away. Being that Brandon runs the only butterfly conservatory in town, and her dissertation is now in jeopardy, taking that job, being back home, it’s all creating chaos of Greta’s perfectly catalogued and compartmentalized world.

I may be the only person in the world who hasn’t read Ove and I haven’t read The Rosie Project either, but I certainly loved this book.

My thoughts

I’m not sure what I was expecting from The Butterfly Effect, but what I got was a charming, well-written book that I couldn’t put down. It’s intelligent, funny, and full of great characters.

Main character Greta is delightfully realistic: a nerdy introvert with questionable social skills who has her whole life upended and is forced to deal with things she’d rather ignore. Greta is frustratingly selfish at times, but I found her so relatable and absolutely loved her growth through the book. Danny, Meg, Max, and Brandon are well-drawn and interesting characters as well, and I enjoyed watching Greta try to navigate her relationships with all of them.

The science, bugs, Star Trek, and familiar Iowa locales added to my enjoyment of The Butterfly Effect, but the very best part of this book was Greta’s personal growth and the truly uplifting vibes it left me with. This is a fantastic debut novel, and I’m looking forward to more from Rachel Mans McKenny.

I read most of the book on my Kindle, but supplemented with the excellent audiobook since I had a road trip to make. Carly Robbins is a great narrator, and I loved the parts I listened to. I highly recommend this book (or audiobook) to anyone who likes messy, sometimes crabby characters and smart writing.


Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft by Samantha Silva (audiobook review)

I adore historical fiction based on real people. This book is a fantastic combination of good writing and a fascinating historical subject.

What it’s about

The Goodreads description about this novel is delightfully short:

From Samantha Silva, the author of Mr. Dickens and His Carol, a beautiful, engrossing novel based on the life of proto-feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft, narrated to her newborn daughter, Mary Shelley…

I haven’t read anything by Silva before, but I can vouch for Love and Fury being beautiful and engrossing.

My thoughts

As the title promises, this is a novel about Mary Wollstonecraft: writer, philosopher, arguably one of the world’s first feminists, and mother of Mary Shelley. I have done my research on Wollstonecraft enough to know that Silva’s novel closely follows the known events of her life, and I absolutely love the detail, thoughts, and emotions that the author filled these events out with.

The story is laid out by two women: Mrs. B, a midwife who is called to help Mary Wollstonecraft deliver her second daughter, then called back to help nurse her when she begins to suffer complications of the birth, and Mary herself, who tells her life story to her newborn. Mary takes her ‘Little Bird’ through her painful childhood, her quest for knowledge and autonomy in a time when both were hard to come by for girls and women, her unconventional relationships, and her struggles with her own feelings and thoughts. While Mary’s memories take center stage, I very much enjoyed Mrs. B’s perspectives and her thoughts about her own life relationships as she spends time with Mary’s family.

Love and Fury manages to be a slow, melancholy and atmospheric read while also having an active and engaging plot. Wollstonecraft certainly traveled about Europe in interesting times and met and knew many interesting people. It’s a story about love, families, friendships and freedom. To quote the book itself, it’s sad, glorious and beautiful.

I was fortunate to receive an ALC of the audiobook, narrated masterfully by Ell Potter, who has narrated several other books that I loved. This is a flawless audiobook, and I highly recommend it to like-minded listeners.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan audio for my copy in exchange for this honest review and for the chance to experience this wonderful audiobook.