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Captive Butterfly Sets Woman Free

Mason resident Lauren Cavanaugh pursues her dream of being a writer with her first book.

When lockdowns hit at the beginning of 2020, Lauren Cavanaugh was the Director of Job and Family Services for Warren County. Already scant resources were in even higher demand, everything was closing and the possibility of a third major brain surgery loomed large. Obligations were piling up and she needed a way to de-stress. 

Lauren shares, "I finally stopped saying to myself 'I want to write a book one day' and sat down and gave it a try." 

And she did. With the support of her husband Tim, Lauren left her job of 11 years to finish her novella, Captive Butterfly.

Captive Butterfly is the first book published by Lauren, a long-time Mason resident. The novella chronicles the story of two women, Grace and Meg, from their childhood through Grace’s kidnapping in Haiti to her rescue by Meg.

It was important for Lauren to tell a story about faith in action. She has a rare condition called Chiari malformation, which is characterized by the brain or cerebrospinal fluid putting excess pressure on the spinal cord. Chiari malformation comes with a variety of symptoms, and she has had two major brain surgeries as a result. Facing the possibility of a third (in addition to the challenges we all face in day-to-day life) Lauren's faith has been vital to her. She wanted that example to be at the forefront of her story.

Inspired by true events, Grace and her husband Josh are kidnapped and tortured while on a mission trip to Haiti. Grace in particular relies on her faith to survive the brutal treatment she receives. Leaning on prayer is in fact the only way she makes it through. 

To make her storytelling realistic, Lauren watched documentaries about actual missionaries who were kidnapped. While she writes about the truth of what can happen, she made the decision that it was not necessary to make the book gory or too graphic. She describes the trauma without making the story itself traumatic. 

Amazingly, Captive Butterfly entertains a level of compassion not only for the woman who helps them escape, Nadine, but also for the kidnappers. Nadine explains how the head of the gang became the person he did, describing the poverty he endured, and the desperation to escape the circumstances of his life. The book stops short of absolving him of the atrocities he committed against the couple, but the moment of reflection is refreshing. 

As Lauren put it, "Everyone has a story."

After a moment of wavering, Nadine eventually helps Grace and Josh escape, and then tragically leaves their lives rather quickly. 

When asked about Nadine's role Lauren says, “There are people who come into your life unexpectedly, and in the moment you may not necessarily realize they are there to help you. I wrote her to symbolize how I see butterflies: they arrive and they’re beautiful and bring us joy. They’re not here for long, but they play a role in our lives."

Lauren is currently working on a sequel following her favorite character, Meg. She is Grace's best friend and also her foil. Where Grace is a missionary driven by service, Meg is selfish and not always trustworthy. She is so motivated by her career that she rejects the idea of love and family. However, through the process of rescuing Grace, Meg softens and learns that it is possible to both have a career and allow herself to be loved. Meg has the largest character arc of the novella, and Lauren is curious to explore the tension between the protective part of Meg and the part that she's protecting.

The process of writing this book itself has had a transformative effect on the author.

Lauren reflected, “I pay more attention to everything around me, like when the wind blows, or when I hear leaves. It’s the funniest thing. I carry a little notebook and I make notes when I notice something because I think maybe I can use that somewhere. I’m looking for things for the book, but I’m also noticing things I maybe never would have.”

Captive Butterfly mimics (in theme only) some realities of Lauren's journey. A moment in which she was in an almost impossible situation allowed her to be open to the tender, day-to-day moments that we can only appreciate fully if we are able to be present with them.

Make sure to follow Lauren Cavanaugh’s Instagram @LaurenCavAuthor or check out to buy a copy of Captive Butterfly and stay up to date with Lauren and the upcoming sequel.