In an earlier review, I said that C.C. Finlay’s “The Hummingbird Temple” might be the best story in this special, 300th issue of BCS. Perhaps it is, but this story is at least a close second. It is told in the form of a never-sent letter, written in code, recalling the life of a mother, Shemi, and the hopes and fears she had—and still has—for her much-loved daughter, Oya. The story begins with an account of how Shemi and her people, wartime refugees, were driven out of their land and forced to settle in a matriarchal, but decidedly puritanical society. There, Shemi’s People of the Butterfly are seen as second-class citizens, at best.
Interesting though this part of the story is, however, it pales before the account of how Shemi came to accept her daughter for the person she is, something “new and strange and wonderful,” rather than the person Shemi once hoped Oya would become. But it’s not just the story itself that delights. Ogden’s language is beautifully poetic. At one point, for example, she describes her then unborn daughter as “a secret moon riding high in my belly.” At another, Ogden offers a convincing explanation for why Butterflies prefer one-night stands. If that doesn’t get you to read the story, I don’t know what will.