To Keep a Butterfly From Flying
by Cynthia Snyder
BookVenture Publishing

"This ship is going to give me my escape, and I was only hours away from being set free."

Cynthia has a rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Ted, but his latest betrayal is the final straw. She jumps at the chance to put some space between the two of them and signs up to work on a cruise ship as a hairdresser. It’s a chance to start over, to do a little healing, and to have the experience of a lifetime. Cynthia soon learns, however, that her time working on the high seas is just as complicated as her everyday life. From maintaining performance standards to navigating relationships with co-workers and colleagues, she grapples with the duality of her feelings, human nature, and all that life has to offer.

The author’s book follows Cynthia’s journey of self-reflection and growth as she travels around the world. Part memoir and part travelogue, this short work draws upon the author’s own experiences working on a cruise ship, documenting roughly six months of her time spent on the seas. As each entry is dated on a consecutive timeline, the reader follows along with Cynthia’s experiences and gradual growth—from when she first feels homesick, to her falling in love with a fellow crew member, to making a decision about her placement on the cruise.

The writing is simple yet raw, capturing many of the author’s natural feelings without sugarcoating or dressing them up; if she’s angry, she says she’s angry. It also effectively captures Cynthia’s fluctuating emotions and how she reacts to her environment or her situation. For example, Cynthia goes through cycles of feeling alone and isolated on the ship, based on how other crew members view Americans as a culture or to feeling welcome and loved by others when they genuinely invite her to join their outings or show acts of kindness. Adding to the protagonist’s isolation and identity struggle is the structure and rigidness of ship life. Although the reader is not provided with full details, Cynthia outlines that there are many rules and regulations in place that feel like restrictions on her individuality and expression.

Throughout all of this, Cynthia is able to find instances of beauty in her life, which leads to self-reflection and appreciation. For example, after encountering a kind passenger on the ship, she writes, “It’s amazing how the universe knows what to do, who to send to you at the right time. It is almost as if we don’t know what’s coming to us but it’s sent with a purpose.” In a different encounter, Cynthia is encouraged to visit the Butterfly Gardens on St. Thomas. Hesitant at first, once she visits she has an epiphany of sorts. These moments of clarity show her growth as a person willing to embrace change and work on her outlook on life for the better.

In a sense, the book shares similarities with Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both women experience a fallout from a relationship and decide to travel in hopes of self-fulfillment, escape, or some other driving force. While Gilbert’s journey is more structured and has more elements of spirituality to it, the messages of happiness, self-love, and human nature are similar and resounding in both memoirs. A short, wise tale, this book is great for readers who may need a nudge to take a risk in their own lives.

Return to USR Home