Butterfly Yellow 

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       March 5, 2020


Author  Thanhha Lai

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 978 0 7022 6289 0
Publisher:         UQP
Release Date:   March 2020  

Website:    https://www.uqp.uq.edu.au 

A story about refugees who escaped Vietnam by boat after the war, is always going to contain some confronting scenes, Butterfly Yellow is no exception. The main character, Hang has suffered “Extreme Trauma” according to her files. As a teenager her experiences will remain with her forever.

Thanhha Lai has softened the horrors by presenting them as a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout the tale. There is a gentle humour introduced which also keeps the reader wanting to continue and follow the story to its conclusion.

Hang is on a mission to find her baby brother, who was mistakenly taken to America as an orphan. When she finally arrives in that country, she stays with her uncle, who wants to help her locate her sibling. He wants to move slowly and use lawyers to retrieve the boy, but Hang is sure that once he sees her, Linh, her young brother, will remember the love they shared and come with her. After all, six years have not dimmed her memory of him.

Escaping from her uncle’s house Hang meets up with a young wannabe cowboy called LeeRoy. He has just left his parents’ home rather than go to Yale and is seeking adventure as a rodeo rider and cowboy. He is the perfect foil for Hang who is feisty, determined and strong willed. He agrees to take her to Texas to find her brother out of gentlemanly good will, but finds himself embroiled in a complex family battle.

There are many issues in Butterfly Yellow, that are filled with remembered love and wisdom from Hang’s Grandmother and Father. As a student in Vietnam, Hang and her Dad watch many Clint Eastwood movies to improve their English. Now, in America, she recalls the sayings of her grandmother and plans her life accordingly.

There is an awakening for LeeRoy who has lived a gentle, carefree life with his loving parents. He begins to feel protective towards Hang, and realizes that his life has been easy and comfortable so far. Hang just wants LeeRoy to talk we also learn about the geology of a local canyon and the extinction of an Native American tribe.

The author cleverly meshes all these issues together, along with some language lessons. Butterfly Yellow shows in so many ways that healing can come also with hope and grace.