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July 20 , 2007

INSECTUAL: The Secret of the Black Butterfly


"That's where they burn red-haired girls as witches," Maya's mother said as they stood staring at the heavy metal door of an ominous bunker on their way to kindergarten.

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This streak of madness starts Maya's odyssey – from war and betrayal in Germany of the late 1940s to adventure in Africa in the 1960s.

Maya's trauma remains buried with her childhood in the Bavarian Alps, the family hideaway where they fled to get away from the bombing raids. She goes on a U.N. mission to the former tormented Belgian Congo, where she weds her glamorous Italian co-worker and gives birth to two children in the midst of the dangers of the Mulele revolution.

This fast-moving saga rolls across three continents, from war-torn Europe to Africa and then to North America. In Montreal in the 1980s, she undergoes psychotherapy to uncover the sting of angst embedded in her psyche.

From hypnosis arises the image of the black butterfly, symbol of her father. In the psychiatrist's office, the doctor's suggestion of friendly touching "dislodges the pebble that sets in motion an avalanche" – Maya's anatomy of a secret seduction.

This unusual picture book for adults uses the literary device of quotes pulled from the text to create a parallel universe of 80 drawings – each one an epiphany – that illustrate the gift of humour found in the transformative power of art and spirituality.

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