D'face's Reviews > Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed by Donald Harington
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‘Butterfly Weed’ takes the form of a novelist speaking with a retired folklorist at his nursing home. The folklorist stumbled into Stay More with typhoid and was nursed back to health by Doc Swain. Doc Swain was cut from the womb of his mother by his biological father who killed his parents and gave the baby to reclusive healer in payment for learning the trade of healing from the recluse. The recounts the story of Doc Swain a doctor taught by his adoptive father in their remote cave. Without formal schooling Doc Swain becomes a recognised doctor capable of not only the most advanced medical diagnoses, but also surgery, raising the dead and curing the sick in their sleep through the ‘dream cure’. The doctor marries one of his patients but finds his true love many years later in a 16 year old student Tenny. Their love is frustrated by the interference of a lusty female teacher Venda Breedlove who has her designs upon Doc Swain. Tenny contracts tuberculosis and dies in a very poignant passage at the end of the book, visiting the Doc after her death in his dreams. There are many graphic sexual scenes throughout the book, including the sexual awakening of two male characters through incest.

This is the first Harington book I have read. Each chapter is a session with the folklorist in the nursing home and the writing style is conversational making this a very comfortable read. I was introduced to Harington through ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ where he was described as "America's greatest unknown writer." Harington’s novels are difficult to place, they are magical realism in a small town he has richly created and populated. He died in 2009.

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Reading Progress

January 27, 2011 – Started Reading
January 27, 2011 – Shelved
February 3, 2011 – Finished Reading

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