"A novel that grips you from the very opening lines, The Butterfly Lampshade keeps you submerged in tense uncertainty until the final page. Francie's life has always been fraught with trauma, growing up with a mother who suffers intermittent psychosis. Her life changes drastically and permanently, however, when she is just seven-years-old. During one of her mother's episodes, Francie's guardianship is transferred over to an out-of-state aunt, forcing her to move to Los Angeles and adjust to an entirely new family. As she grows older, Francie worries obsessively that her mother's affliction is going to manifest in her. She tries to stave off her fears by delving into the dark memories of her mother's institutionalization, while simultaneously grounding herself in the objects of the real world around her. Despite it's quiet and subtle approach, this novel has a lingering horror to it that sticks in your gut long after reading."
The first novel in ten years from the author of the beloved New York Times bestseller The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake, a luminous, poignant tale of a mother, a daughter, mental illness, and the fluctuating barrier between the mind and the world
On the night her single mother is taken to a mental hospital after a psychotic episode, eight year-old Francie is staying with her babysitter, waiting to take the train to Los Angeles to go live with her aunt and uncle. There is a lovely lamp next to the couch on which she's sleeping, the shade adorned with butterflies. When she wakes, Francie spies a dead butterfly, exactly matching the ones on the lamp, floating in a glass of water. She drinks it before the babysitter can see.
Twenty years later, Francie is compelled to make sense of that moment, and two other incidents—her discovery of a desiccated beetle from a school paper, and a bouquet of dried roses from some curtains. Her recall is exact—she is sure these things happened. But despite her certainty, she wrestles with the hold these memories maintain over her, and what they say about her own place in the world.
As Francie conjures her past and reduces her engagement with the world to a bare minimum, she begins to question her relationship to reality. The scenes set in Francie's past glow with the intensity of childhood perception, how physical objects can take on an otherworldly power. The question for Francie is, What do these events signify? And does this power survive childhood?
Told in the lush, lilting prose that led the San Francisco Chronicle to say Aimee Bender is "a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language," The Butterfly Lampshade is a heartfelt and heartbreaking examination of the sometimes overwhelming power of the material world, and a broken love between mother and child.