The Maps of Mem­o­ry: Return to But­ter­fly Hill

Mar­jorie Agosín, Lee White (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – April 26, 2021

This touch­ing sequel to Mar­jorie Agosín’s I Lived on But­ter­fly Hill con­tin­ues the sto­ry of four­teen-year-old Celeste Mar­coni, who returns to Chile after the fall of dic­ta­tor Augus­to Pinochet and must learn to rebuild her inter­rupt­ed life. Reestab­lish­ing ties with her fam­i­ly is chal­leng­ing. Celeste knows that she was sent to rel­a­tives in the Unit­ed States for her own safe­ty but, only par­tial­ly under­stand­ing the suf­fer­ing she left behind, she is filled with resent­ment and guilt. Learn­ing about the tor­ture her par­ents and oth­ers endured and the extent of the regime’s bru­tal­i­ty is a shock that she grad­u­al­ly absorbs and integrates.

Celeste pas­sion­ate­ly wish­es to aid in the rebuild­ing of her com­mu­ni­ty. She is trou­bled by the num­ber of poor peo­ple who have had no edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, and she estab­lish­es a lit­er­a­cy pro­gram to help those who wish to move ahead. She also devel­ops a cre­ative way of memo­ri­al­iz­ing those who have dis­ap­peared” from the com­mu­ni­ty: maps of mem­o­ry,” con­sist­ing of per­son­al­ized stones that mark areas impor­tant to those who must not be for­got­ten. Through these and sim­i­lar activ­i­ties, Celeste bonds with new friends, an impor­tant mile­stone on the jour­ney to her own per­son­al heal­ing. Think­ing about those who are still miss­ing, their fates unknown — among them her best friend, Lucila — Celeste is spurred to fur­ther action. She and her friends painstak­ing­ly find the locale where Lucila and anoth­er of their school­mates have found refuge after the ter­rors they endured. Celeste hopes her own love and sup­port and that of oth­ers will help the two girls to over­come at least some of their fears — enough to return home to a com­mu­ni­ty who cares about them. This is a dif­fi­cult task, dur­ing which she learns that patience and under­stand­ing do not always yield imme­di­ate results. And yet she perseveres.

The Maps of Mem­o­ry ani­mates a piece of his­to­ry with which the read­er may not be famil­iar. It high­lights the ways in which sen­si­tiv­i­ty and under­stand­ing, in con­junc­tion with self­less giv­ing and for­give­ness, can make an often ter­ri­fy­ing world a place where hope exists and flour­ish­es — a world where it is pos­si­ble to thrive.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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