Middle Grade Monday: The Maps of Memory by Marjorie Agosin
A flawed but still gripping sequel to I Lived on Butterfly Hill, which I reviewed in 2015.
Title: The Maps of Memory: Return to Butterfly Hill
Author: Marjorie Agosín, read by Kyla Garcia
In this inspiring sequel to the Pura Belpré Award–winning, “dazzling and insightful” ( BCCB ) I Lived on Butterfly Hill , thirteen-year-old Celeste Marconi returns home to a very different Chile and makes it her mission to rebuild her community, and find those who are still missing.
During Celeste Marconi’s time in Maine, thoughts of the brightly colored cafes and salty air of Valparaíso, Chile, carried her through difficult, homesick days. Now, she’s finally returned home to find the dictatorship has left its mark on her once beautiful and vibrant community.
Celeste is determined to help her beloved Butterfly Hill get back to the way it was and to encourage her neighbors to fight to regain what they’ve lost. More than anything, Celeste wishes she could bring back her best friend, Lucilla, who was one of many to disappear during the dictatorship. Celeste tries to piece together what happened, but it all seems too big to fix—until she receives a letter that changes everything.
When Celeste sets off on her biggest adventure yet, she’ll uncover more heartbreaking truths of what her country has endured. But every small victory makes a difference, and even if Butterfly Hill can never be what it was, moving forward and healing can make it something even better.
I listened to the audio of this book, and found it hard to stop listening and do things that needed more of my attention. At the same time, when I re-read my review of I Lived on Butterfly Hill, I am reminded that that book had a lot in it that this one seems to lack, especially the sense of the author as a poet--that kind of language at least did not come through in the audio.
Celeste is older now (the blurb says 13, I recall her as 14) and the story is a bit more mature, primarily in the stories of what people suffered under Pinochet. Oddly, the book never mentions him by name, just as "the dictator" or "the general," and makes no attempt to deal with the politics of the situation. I get dodging the politics, but why not name the villain of the piece?
The story itself is fairly simple, with much of the interest being provided by the gradual uncovering of what other characters (not Celeste) went through--and her gradual realization of what the exile she so resented saved her from. It was good to see her swing from "I need to know" to "Do you want to tell me?" in her interactions with those suffering PTSD (at the least) from torture and narrow escapes from death. She and her friends, but above all Celeste as the one who didn't live through it all in person, need to learn how bad it all was. I don't think the story is bad--it just doesn't inspire me to the same kind of awe that the first book did.
I'm calling this borderline YA, not truly middle grade, due to the descriptions of torture. They are not graphic, and the worst atrocities are more hinted at than named, but it felt like something it might be hard for children to cope with. On the other side of that statement lies the truth that children were also tortured and killed by the regime, as Celeste and her friends learn. Celeste's budding romance still falls into the MG format.