Friday, October 27, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Butterfly Farmer by Lynn Hoffman

I took advantage of a short plane ride to read a novella I’ve been anxious to get to: The Butterfly Farmer by Lynn Hoffman. I’m a fan of his contemporary relationship-based novels which are peopled by relatable characters in poignant situations. (He has also written a memoir, Radiation Days, which is highly recommended.) Hoffman is a poet and a culinary expert who has published nonfiction books on beer, wine, and rum. So naturally, the writing is beautiful and the novels are rich with descriptions of food and drink. Although far from being a foodie myself, I can appreciate the sensual details of cooking and eating, and I love how integral food and drink are to the progress of the romance.

In The Butterfly Farmer, Jonathan Motaro has recently lost his wife to cancer. Taking stock of his life, he realizes that he was much more dedicated to his marriage than she was, and he’s not quite sure what to do with the loss of it. His wife had been a passionate gardener. He continues puttering out of habit until, inspired by the presence of a butterfly, he is awakened by a desire to create a butterfly-friendly garden on his island home.

Simultaneously, divorcee Julia Clewitt, newly turned forty, buys herself a sailboat. The divorce, eleven years earlier, has left her commitment shy. The sailboat is her refuge.

Jonathan is a good cook and food-lover; Julia is a chef turned teacher of chefs.

One day while sailing, Julia notices the swath of green that is Jonathan’s butterfly garden. The two meet. A relationship begins. The story is sweet, gentle, and touching. There are difficulties, anticipated and unanticipated with a twist that surprises. The compelling characters, the wonderfully rendered island atmosphere, and the food you can almost taste make this a book you’ll want to read in one sitting.