In Dancing with Butterflies, Reyna Grande renders the Mexican immigrant experience in “lyrical and sensual” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) prose through the poignant stories of four women brought together through folklorico dance.
Dancing with Butterflies uses the alternating voices of four very different women whose lives interconnect through a common passion for their Mexican heritage and a dance company called Alegría. Yesenia, who founded Alegría with her husband, Eduardo, sabotages her own efforts to remain a vital, vibrant woman when she travels back and forth across the Mexican border for cheap plastic surgery. Elena, grief-stricken by the death of her only child and the end of her marriage, finds herself falling dangerously in love with one of her underage students. Elena's sister, Adriana, wears the wounds of abandonment by a dysfunctional family and becomes unable to discern love from abuse. Soledad, the sweet-tempered illegal immigrant who designs costumes for Alegría, finds herself stuck back in Mexico, where she returns to see her dying grandmother.
Reyna Grande has brought these fictional characters so convincingly to life that readers will imagine they know them.
Grande's lyrical and sensual follow-up to her stunning Across a Hundred Mountains (2006) is well worth the wait. This time out, there is still the poignant intimacy of the Mexican immigrant experience, but it's richly layered into the lives of four women who discover that their passion for the vibrant tradition of Folkl rico dancing binds them to their pasts, futures and one another as each faces her own test of love and loyalty. There's Yesenia, the founder of Grupo Folkl rico Alegria, who, at 42, is struggling through a midlife crisis that threatens to wreck everything she's loved; Elena, a young dancer and teacher whose stillborn daughter pushes her into a forbidden love; Soledad, a gifted seamstress for the Folkl rico group whose dreams of her own dress shop get derailed by a return to Mexico to visit her dying grandmother; and Adriana, Elena's impetuous younger sister, who's involved in an abusive relationship. Nothing is simple for these complex women, but the art and culture of a Mexican dance tradition is what finally saves their lives, and we're lucky to be in the audience.