The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.

He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.


The physician-narrator of this story is so consumed by the details of life that he often misses the big picture. He grudgingly accepts the fact that his own life is out of control but has difficulty reorganizing it. The doctor is paralyzed by his family legacy--a preoccupation with butterflies and collecting that overshadows any interest in establishing and maintaining meaningful human relationships.

The willingness to isolate oneself can only be mitigated by discovery--of Nature, self, love, and commitment to others. Curiosity and loss are often requirements for discovery. The cost of curiosity is sometimes obsession. Migration is portrayed as a phenomenon as essential to human beings as it to other species in Nature including butterflies.


This story was selected for the anthology, Best New American Voices 2002.

Primary Source

A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies



Place Published

New York



Page Count