Sometimes the best way to read a novel is to write one.

Over a decade ago, something like that began happening to me. I’d already been working at the craft of fiction for many years when it occurred to me that it might be interesting to try writing a first person narrative. Interesting? Hah! At the very second I had that thought, a little girl sprang up inside me, bright as a button and odd as could be, prone to banging and pinching and whirling whenever she was frightened or overwhelmed. Propelled by her insatiable curiosity about the world around her, she began skipping away from me at great speed. Intrigued and already more than a little smitten, I kicked up my feet and struggled to keep up with her—a dynamic that has pretty much marked our relationship ever since.

Over the course of two novels (The History of My Body and Tizita), she revealed to me the intricate philosophy she’d developed about the Void that was predicated on the habits of birds, weeds, wildly eccentric grownups, and babies saved from “the devil abortionists,” all of which led her to explore quantum physics, Indra’s Web, tweeters, mini-explosions, multiple universes, black holes, dematerialization, romance and betrayal, Ethiopia and its tizita music, death, loss in general, and the strange human reluctance to do anything to rout the dangerous march toward cataclysmic climate change. 

My side of the relationship has basically consisted of stretching my rather limited mind to keep up with someone far more brilliant than I and doing my best to do justice to her extraordinary inner and outer adventures. (In their review of Tizita, Publishers Weekly kindly commented, “Heath’s adroit writing makes Fleur’s remarkable life consistently captivating.”)

Today, with the release of Book 3 of The Fleur Trilogy, my partnership with Fleur reaches a conclusion. I’m launching her, as mamas do, with no little sadness and a great deal of joy, just as over the years she’s flung me into one surprising incarnation of myself after another. In Return of the Butterfly, she’s a bit older, as (lord knows) I am. While I’ve become a hopelessly doting grandmother of two Adorables, Fleur’s love life has become at once more settled and more complicated. She still manages to gather into her circle a slew of delightful odd ducks, and she’s still crazy about cats, exotic food, and list making, but she’s pretty much flummoxed by some of the social trends of our time.  

The two of us are on the same page when it comes to anguish over the increased collective darkness of this era and a lurking sense of dread over our species’ lemming-like rush into extinction. We both struggle to muster hope when it feels like our world, like the Hindu goddess Akhilandeshvari herself, will never again not be broken. 

The butterfly effect has been one of Fleur’s guiding images, and, as you might imagine, the exquisite creatures whose transformation links earth and sky prove to be the agents of Fleur’s own metamorphosis in Return of the Butterfly. I invite you to join us in the final flight of this journey and hope you will be as surprised as I was by its ending.