Who is Katie Reynolds?
“You are so beautiful, my Indian Princess.” “And you are my K’aalógii.” “What is K’aalógii?” “K’aalógii is Butterfly. You are my Butterfly Boy, and I am your Indian Princess.”
— Jim Aarons, The Butterfly Boy
While living on her native Navajo reservation, Katie Reynolds develops an interest in veterinary medicine when she helps Dr. Colgrave, an extension veterinarian find the connection between animals on the reservation and the death of tribal members.
She enters school intending to return to Dinétah, the Navajo homeland to serve her people. Although leaving her world for college and veterinary school is scary Katie finds support and guidance into the bilagáana’s, the white man’s world from Ellen, Dr. Colgrave’s wife.
Excelling in her undergraduate studies, Katie accepts a place into the elite and prestigious University of California veterinary college at Davis.
It is during veterinary school Katie’s love quandary unfolds. That’s when she develops feelings for Rory Evans, a bilagáana not of her culture. Given Katie’s segregated upbringing this was entirely unexpected, with common sense tugging her back while conditions of the heart propel her the other way.
Although this emotional railroad engine came as a surprise to Katie, her mother initiated the first foray by marrying a bilagáana herself; Katie was only half-Navajo. But the mixing gave her daughter an incredible head start advantage to try to forge a deeper way into the bilagáana world. She could bring badly needed knowledge back to her people.
As her love for this bilagáana called Rory develops, Katie must seek guidance through her Navajo traditions, her mother, Rose, and ultimately from Rory himself. Rory needs to grow too, but unlike Katie he is hesitant to look to friends for guidance, still seeking those with more knowledge than a contemporary would possess.
Rory’s maturity accelerates when René, a handsome Basque, whose history and family security offers Katie the confidence she is seeking herself becomes an attractive alternative suitor.
Being educated away from her people, Katie’s path inexorably draws her away from her tribal goals, the very ones she has clung to during the first part of her life. Suddenly, because of unexpected love, rigorous education, and exposure to a different culture, Katie realizes her carefully constructed world is disintegrating. To maintain both their sanities, Katie must decide whether she will enter Rory’s world or stay within the confines of her homeland.