“Tinfoil Butterfly” takes a heartbreaking narrative emotional core about love, and dresses it with cosmic surrealism and provocative twists.
Rachel Eve Moulton’s debut novel, Tinfoil Butterfly, follows Emma, an anything-but-typical teenaged protagonist as she hitches her way to the Badlands. Emma finds herself in dangerous company with an up-to-no-good driver, Lowell, who has other plans for the young hitcher. When a violent scuffle ensues, things go from bad to worse as Emma finds herself struggling to survive in an abandoned, snow-covered town.
The creepy factor escalates quickly when Earl, a child wearing an eerie tinfoil mask, arrives. Earl tells Emma ominous stories about his dangerous father, George, and about the crows, one of which he believes to be his dead mother. A blizzard is on the way and Emma is hard-pressed to try to figure a way out of her bizarre circumstances.
Moulton starts Tinfoil Butterfly off with a bang. The stakes are sky-high from page one as we’re plummeted into the mind of young Emma who’s gotten more than she bargained for while hitchhiking. Plot points are teased in a strong opening that hooks the reader straight-away: Why is Emma obsessed with getting to the Badlands? What is she running from? Is Lowell more dangerous than she is, or vice versa?
The plot carrots dangled in Tinfoil Butterfly, and at just the right moments, set a swift pace.
It’s impossible to not want to know the why of Emma’s journey.
However, despite the page-turning pull that Tinfoil Butterfly has, the gut-punches of the story come not from the mystery, but from the answers, many of which lay in bittersweet and disturbing tales from Emma’s all-too-real past. There’s an interesting juxtaposition of heart-wrenching flashbacks with gritty, in-the-moment survival. Readers are pushed into and pulled from a dreamworld of sorts, either waking from or drifting into Emma’s flashbacks — a reality arguably more frightening than her current predicament.
The flashback scenes are rich with emotion and they paint meaning, layer by later, onto Emma’s present-day fight for survival.
Tinfoil Butterfly is an explorative work which will please readers who don’t mind ambiguity and which might frustrate those who want firmer answers.
Rachel Eve Moulton’s debut is a thought-provoking and promising novel — a great fit for readers who are fond of horror which is at once surreal and gritty.