Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Review: Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen


Betrayal, forgiveness, identity and obsession churn against the tumultuous landscape of the Islamic revolution and seemingly perfect gardens of southern California in this compelling novel from bestselling author Dora Levy Mossanen.

Amidst a shattering betrayal and a country in turmoil, Soraya flees Iran to make a new life for herself in Los Angeles. The cruel and intimate blow her husband has dealt her awakens an obsessive streak that explodes in the heated world of Southern California, as Soraya plots her revenge against the other woman, her best friend, Butterfly. What she discovers proves far more devastating than anything she had ever imagined, unleashing a whirlwind of events that leave the reader breathless.

A novel singed by the flavors of Tehran, imbued with the Iranian roots of Persepolis and the culture clash of Rooftops of Tehran, this is a striking, nuanced story of a woman caught between two worlds, from the bestselling author of Harem, Courtesan, and The Last Romanov.



Wow!  Scent of Butterflies is a veritable feast for the senses.

Mossanen's descriptive language well conveys the richness of the sights, sounds, aromas, and feels of Soraya's world, while keeping it real so that those of us unused to such an explosion of input can understand and enjoy.  Stretching back to when the Shah was still in power in Iran, we get a sense of how things were back then, and how things changed for all the classes once the clerical regime took over.  I would have been scared stiff being Jewish and living in Iran at the time.

One or two things bothered me about Soraya's character, and by that I mean her inside thoughts and reasonings.  She takes birth control from the moment she gets married because she does not want to share her husband, even with a child.  They go through years of fertility appointments, all to no avail.  Then, after she discovers her husband and her best friend (who has the nickname of Butterfly) wrapped around each other in bed, she hatches a plot to get away from everything.  Well, that part I understand, and she does show a modicum of intelligence by not sharing her plans in this instance, as she needs her husbands signature to show his 'permission' to leave the country without him.

Once in the US, she hatches a plot to use the poison from a rare flower to poison her rival, imagining her husband 'returning' to her in grief after Butterfly's demise.  And she tests the poison on herself, nearly dying in the process.  While I understand the desire to 'do away' with one's romantic rival, the energy of Soraya's plan eats away at her soul, and quite possibly her sanity.

While I did not like elements of Soraya's character, as a character in a book, I feel I understand her.  If I were her friend, I'd probably suggest that she had confronted Aziz once she was in America.  She could have saved herself a mountain of misunderstanding and could have avoided that whole poison episode.  It would have been more productive than running away, taking photographs of a lot of men (and planning to sleep with some) to make her husband jealous, and plotting to kill her rival.  But that is from my point of view as a 'modern' American.

I feel a little sad that most of the characters in Butterfly are definitely worse off at the end of the book.  And what happens in the book could very well (and probably does) happen in real life.

Looking back, I can see the bread crumbs Ms. Mossanen left pointing to the 'real, untold' story along the way.  But, I must confess that I really didn't see that coming.

I have been looking to expand my literary horizons this year by reading works set in countries other than my own, and/or written by people from other parts of the world.  Scent of Butterflies is a wonderful introduction to life in Iran, and has an engaging story line.   There are quite a number of f-bombs, so take note if you are offended by such language.

Would I re-read this title, or read other works by the same author?  Absolutely!



Dora Levy Mossanen was born in Israel and moved to Iran when she was nine. At the onset of the Islamic revolution, she and her family moved to the United States. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of California-Los Angeles and a master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

Dora is the bestselling author of the acclaimed novels Harem, Courtesan, and The Last Romanov. Her fourth and most provocative book, Scent of Butterflies, was released January 7, 2014. She is a frequent contributor to numerous media outlets including the Huffington Post and the Jewish Journal. She has been featured on KCRW, The Politics of Culture, Voice of Russia, Radio Iran and numerous other radio and television programs. She is the recipient of the prestigious San Diego Editors’ choice award and was accepted as contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Dora Levy Mossanen’s novels have been translated into numerous languages world-wide.


Click the above button to follow the tour, and to apply to be a reviewer for TLC!

(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of Scent of Butterflies from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours and NetGalley in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)


  1. Thanks for dropping by my blog on Blitz Day!

  2. "a feast for the senses" sounds like something I shouldn't miss!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  3. A great review, LuAnn. This sounds like a wonderful story. Even I love reading about different countries and their cultures. This reminded me of The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti (Based on life in Israel/Palestine) and Khaled Hosseni's books which are set in Afghanistan!

  4. I don't think I would like this book.
    However, I am going to check out TLC.

  5. Hmm, this sounds like a decent read. I am not sure I would like the main character either if she acts like that and is insistent on her husband being hers. But I do like the idea of the descriptive language!