A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
By John Murray
(HarperCollins, Hardcover, 9780060509286, 288pp.)
Publication Date: March 1, 2003
List Price: $24.95*
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In this remarkably assured and satisfying debut collection, John Murray seamlessly meshes fact with fiction, taking his inspiration from the worlds of science, medicine, and nature. The stories are set in intriguing locations across the globe -- a cholera tent in the slums of Bombay, a United Nations refugee camp in the mountains of Africa, a Key West hideaway -- where his characters, among them doctors, nurses, research scientists, explorers, and collectors, can be found reading The Manual of Clinical Microbiology or Gray's Anatomy or the Complete Textbook of Psychiatry.
And yet, despite the pull of the outer world, these stories are all about the internal world of emotions -- love, loss, obsession, and conflict -- and about families and how they survive. They unfold to tell of moments when people catch glimpses of their real selves, their pasts, and have flashes of understanding about their lives. In "The Hill Station," an American-born scientist is drawn to Bombay, the homeland of her parents, where she breaks free from the confines of her well-ordered life. The title story tells of an aging surgeon who uses his grandfather's collection of butterflies to try and make sense of his past. In "Blue" a young man -- still haunted by the tragic death of his father years earlier -- traverses the Himalayan mountain that would have been his father's last climb. In "Acts of Memory, Wisdom of Man," the son of Indian immigrants relives the summer of 1968, and the events that determined his brother's fate.
Vivid and alive, these stories reveal whole lives -- characters caught between the past and the present, between different cultures, and between their intellects and emotions. Global in scope, classical in form, evocative of place, this rich collection marks an exciting and original debut.