I must admit I am not a fan of insects. Or arachnids. But I will persevere when needs must. For example, when applying for a full-time job at a metropolitan zoo in the education department, I had to give a presentation on spiders. I created a web out of yarn and a hula hoop and presented a lesson on the differences of how spiders caught their food. I was hesitant when I started reading A Mosaic of Wings: A Novel by Kimberly Duffy because the main characters are entomologists who embark on a research expedition to India. What was I getting myself into while reviewing this new book?
It turns out that while the details of the lives of insects (mostly butterflies) were very well written, the story itself did not make me feel like bugs were crawling on me. A Mosaic of Wings instead elicited feelings of amusement, joy, good humor, sadness, anger, and pride as I came to know Nora Shipley and Owen Epps better with each passing page. The 359-page tale takes place primarily in 1885 where they join a British expedition seeking an elusive butterfly. There is a cast of characters in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University, and in India that all come to life under the entertaining words of Kimberly Duffy.
While Nora always stuck to her principles, she sometimes did not make the best choices for those around her. For example, at a dinner party honoring her graduation from Cornell University, her stepfather invited a potential future husband, Mr. Primrose. Nora's stepfather, Lucius, really wanted them to be a match because he needed Mr. Primrose's assistance as he printed their scholarly journal. Things did not go well at the dinner party and Nora told Mr. Primrose exactly how she felt which led to shock and dismay from the guests. I personally think she was right in her anger as Mr. Primrose had said to Nora in regards to her intelligence: "Or maybe your brain is an anomaly. Perhaps you have lost every trace of feminine virtue" (80). Yet, there had to be a better way to handle the problem than calling out a guest in front of everyone else.
This dinner party example is not the only time in A Mosaic of Wings where Nora makes a decision that has negative consequences. Her actions cause injury to the leader of their expedition and another huge decision leads to Nora losing almost everything of her discoveries during the expedition. I feel that some of the consequences seemed a bit much but perhaps that is because I was eager for there to be a happy ending for Nora (and Owen).
While Christianity is not at the forefront of the story, the beliefs of the main characters do come into play when Nora realizes she will have to rely more on God and faith in terms of how to help Sita than through her own science and training. And, of course, readers see the differences between the beliefs of the Indians, the British, and the Americans living in India at the expedition site and in the town as missionaries. This difference creates one of the main challenges of the book as Nora finds a way through a rather large dilemma.
I would recommend A Mosaic of Wings to individuals who enjoy reading Christian fiction set in far-off places. If you like reading about the natural world and the study of it while seeing characters unfold, then you might like to add A Mosaic of Wings to your 'to-read' list. There is a heavy romance element as Nora and Owen discover their mutual affection for each other but at the heart of the story is seeing Nora grow and change as a person as she makes difficult decisions.