A Gathering of Butterflies by Sean C Wright

I don’t generally read short stories, preferring to read a longer, slowly built up narrative that explores characters, plots and settings in intricate detail. However, I made an exception for A Gathering of Butterflies by Sean C. Wright. This is a lovely collection of stories, all different in the essence of their plots but all with a thread of strong female characters who either inspire or are inspired in a situation whereby they are struggling to survive.

The first story is “Devil Does Dallas”. This story is a witty take on the ups and downs of being the devil. As with all the stories, this is a really well written narrative with amusing overtones, which is surprisingly refreshing, given the subject matter. This was my favourite story of the collection as she paints a scene of an overworked Devil who has to keep returning to Earth to find souls to take back to Hell. I particularly liked that Saddam Hussein was the Devil’s lackey and that the downfall of the Devil’s visit to earth comes in the form of a Granny. It’s tough being the Devil!

“Hazel Hogan” addresses the lasting stigma of cruel words and the effect they can have. Hazel Hogan’s life is filled with sadness a she cannot shake the cruel words of her adversaries from childhood. Having lived a somewhat unfulfilled life, Hazel is feeling depressed when she is suddenly abducted by aliens. Wright uses the eyes of the aliens, to highlight the unproductive emotions and actions of the human race, as they use Hazel to learn more about what it is to be human.  I saw traces of one of my favourite short stories, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as Hazel feels mocked by imagined faces in the wallpaper and the personification of her furniture exacerbates this feeling of animosity that Hazel feels from everything and everyone around her, with the exception of her three friends.

“Bubble Bath Twelve” is a quaint little story that tells of a young girl’s birthday celebrations during a time where money was scarce and life was tough. Fan has kept all the memories of this special day in a box, and the box is found when she dies. Fan is a good girl who helps her mum, she’s a treasured friend, sister and daughter. The items in the box numbered ’12’ are possessions that were appreciated and loved and this lovely story tells of how Fan came to obtain them.

“Heaven’s Halfway House” gives a glimpse as to what it might be like at the edge of death. This story considers how inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of sources. It also highlights the importance of childhood influences over the rest of someone’s life, a theme that resonates with the plot in “Hazel Hogan”.

I really enjoyed these short stories. Wright engages the reader well and encourages the reader to put themselves in the shoes of the main protagonists of each story. The third person narrative works really well to help the reader to imagine what it must be like for these people to be in these scenarios. Each story considers the influence of others on the characters to make decisions that ultimately guide them through life, or death.  These stories didn’t take long to read and are well worth the time it takes to read them. They also make you think about the effects that the things that you do and say have on others, particularly if they are easily influenced.

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