CHRIST OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Ardythe Ashley (Available Press: $8, paper; 320 pp.). What we seem to have in this curious novel is a plot written inside out--an interesting but cumbersome idea. Our protagonist, Mara, is a successful novelist who has lived as a recluse in Venice for the past 14 years when lo, who should arrive on her doorstep but the grown son of her dead lover (Aiden) who hopes to learn more of his father through her. Skipping ahead: The second part of the book, entitled "The Name of the Son," is supposed to be Mara's best seller told through Aiden's eyes. The first part, "The Name of the Father," is actually a sequel to the novel that Mara is currently writing. And does the title, "The Christ of the Butterflies," have any bearing on anything? Sure, but that's another plot-within-a-plot device itself. Like trying not to think of a pink elephant, the mechanics of this novel are overwhelming, sweeping characters and subplots into a shapeless blur.

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