Brimming with warmth and vitality, this new novel by the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) is a paean to the power of female courage. The butterflies are four smart and lovely Dominican sisters growing up during Trujillo's despotic regime. While her parents try desperately to cling to their imagined island of security in a swelling sea of fear and intimidation, Minerva Mirabal -- the sharpest and boldest of the daughters, born with a fierce will to fight injustice -- jumps headfirst into the revolutionary tide. Her sisters come upon their courage more gradually, through a passionate, protective love of family or through the sheer impossibility of closing their eyes to the horrors around them. Together, their bravery and determination meld into a seemingly insurmountable force, making Trujillo, for all his power, appear a puny adversary. Alvarez writes beautifully, whether creating the ten-year-old Maria Teresa's charming diary entries or describing Minerva's trip home after her first unsettling confrontation with Trujillo: ""As the road darkened, the beams of our headlights filled with hundreds of blinded moths. Where they hit the windshield, they left blurry marks, until it seemed like I was looking at the world through a curtain of tears."" If the Mirabal sisters are iron-winged butterflies, their men -- father and husbands -- often resemble those blinded moths, feeble and fallible. Still, the women view them with kind, forgiving eyes, and though there's no question of which sex is being celebrated here, a sweet and accepting spirit toward frailty, if not human cruelty, prevails. This is not Garcia MÃ¡rquez or Allende territory (no green hair or floating bodies); Alvarez's voice is her own, grounded in realism yet alive with the magic of everyday human beings who summon extraordinary courage and determination to fight for their beliefs. As mesmerizing as the Mirabal sisters themselves.