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Praise Song for the Butterflies Paperback – August 28, 2018

4.8 out of 5 stars 88 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"Bernice McFadden's Praise Song for the Butterflies is a story about trauma and survival...Let me assure you: McFadden's writing is so gentle and internal; reading it doesn't feel like an exercise in masochism. Instead, it's a nuanced examination of heritage, family, secrets, and resilience. Get your copy now."

"Praise Song for the Butterflies is a heavy and stirring book about the violence inflicted on girls--and the revenge that some of them are able to enact."

"Bernice L. McFadden's tenth novel follows a West African woman's recovery after she escapes the temple where she was forced into 15 years of ritual servitude."

"Abeo Kata's comfortable life as a West African child is violently cut short when, at nine years old, she is sacrificed to a shrine as atonement for her father's sins. After 15 years, she is finally rescued--battered, bruised and faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of rejoining a world (and a family) that left her behind."

"Since Bernice L. McFadden published her debut novel, Sugar, in 2001, she has taken up the mantle of not only singing a Black woman's song, but also digging up our histories and putting them on the pages of 12 books."
--Bitch Magazine

"I was blown away by this book...McFadden doesn't waste words, sometimes moving us years between paragraphs. I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of the African women known as trokosi, or shrine slaves, but I'm thankful McFadden has brought their stories to the light."

One of Book Marks Best Reviewed Books of the Week, August 31, 2018

Included in BookTrib's 8 Books Featuring Memorable African American Characters

Included in Entropy Magazine's August/September Small Press Releases roundup

"An inspiring and provocative fictional treatment of a very real problem."
--The New Orleans Advocate

"On the heels of her American Book Award- and NAACP Image Award-winning novel The Book of Harlan, McFadden's 10th novel, Praise Song for the Butterflies, gives us the story of Abeo, a privileged 9-year-old girl in West Africa who is sacrificed by her family into a brutal life of ritual servitude to atone for the father's sins. Fifteen years later, Abeo is freed and must learn how to heal and live again. A difficult story that, according to Kirkus, McFadden takes on with 'riveting prose' that 'keeps the reader turning pages.'"
--The Millions

"McFadden's stories have consistently taken readers into the heart of not just the land but the people, reflecting base instincts and our truest selves."
--Electric Lit

"A tale set in [West Africa], where a girl is given up by her family, endures a very hard life, and, once set free, must find a way to heal and live forward."
--Philadelphia Inquirer

"McFadden scores big."
--Jamaica Gleaner

"Ritual servitude, trokosi, takes hold of McFadden's created innocent, and that forces the reader into a story that will yield understanding, empathy, and revulsion...McFadden's innocent girl child's journey through trokosi, insanity, rehabilitation, and forgiveness to reach a point of self-awareness and strength--is a literary treasure. Praise Song for the Butterflies is a well-crafted story about an injustice that can be changed."

"This is a novel brave enough to cast an unblinking eye on one of the most disturbing chapters in the ongoing history of female oppression, and humane enough to have found the means for a redemptive and fulfilling read."
--New York Journal of Books

"If you're looking to spend a day enthralled in a dramatic tale of abandonment, what mercy means, and to just contemplate healing, then I would recommend you read Praise Song for the Butterflies."
--The Storyscape

"This is a story about love, abuse, sacrifice, and pain, and the path to healing...5 Stars."
--Reader Then Blogger

"Praise Song For The Butterflies is a contemporary, eye-opening and heart-breaking account of ritual servitude in West Africa."
--The Curious Reader

"[Readers are] honored to see a young woman, one who has survived unspeakable pain, become a woman of grace and courage."
--The Cyberlibrarian

"A beautiful, poignant tale of family, trust, love, and secrets."
--All for the Books

"I read so that I can be transported and Praise Song for the Butterflies does just that. Bernice McFadden can inhabit any culture, any character, any experience, and Praise Song for the Butterflies is no exception. For those hours I was with Abeo, a daughter sacrificed to a religious sect, the burdens of her heart were mine."
--The Millions

"Bernice L. McFadden is a writer who needs more credit. In her latest novel, she discusses the trokosi, who are slave girls in Africa handed over to a 'priest' in order to clear their families of bad luck. We follow Abeo Kata and see how she deals with her unfortunate fate. Even while writing about a seemingly hopeless situation, McFadden restores our faith by showing how there is life after hardship and forgiveness."
--Politics & Prose, staff pick

"Bernice McFadden turns her keen eye to the subject of ritualistic slavery in West Africa...McFadden weaves past and present times to build Abeo's story, including the stories of her ancestors, which are crucial to understanding her father's actions. McFadden's writing is strongest in these moments, building a complicated and nuanced web of tales that reveal religious customs and cultural beliefs of a time and place that is both modern and yet rooted in the traditions of its past...In the moments of brilliance, it is Abeo who emerges most fully on the pages: a fierce, vibrant and complicated woman whose survival shapes not only her life, but the lives of those around her. At once a heartbreaking tale of violence and oppression and an uplifting story of hope and redemption, Praise Song for the Butterflies sheds light on the lasting legacy of ritual servitude in West Africa in way that is not easy to forget."
--Shelf Awareness for Readers

"Heartbreaking yet ultimately redeeming, this strong survivor's tale is told with unadorned prose and a well-paced plot. Abeo's story is compelling, but seeing how the adults in Abeo's life rationalize their betrayal is even more horrifically fascinating. Recommended, especially as an introduction to a lesser-known cultural practice that has become widely criminalized."
--Library Journal

"An engrossing novel that truly is a praise song for survivors everywhere."
--Kirkus Reviews

"This harrowing yet compelling tale is not for the faint of heart but does promise redemption in the most trying of circumstances."

"Abeo's journey is challenging and stirring, punctuated by an excellent supporting cast of characters and McFadden's lyrical prose. This moving novel should appeal to a wide audience."
--Publishers Weekly

"Ms. McFadden, may I please have my heart back? Because you snatched it...There is no question that I would recommend reading this one. Just be prepared for the heartache."
--Monlatable Book Reviews

"Praise Song for the Butterflies was a complete surprise. For a coming of age story it is quite original and due to its many themes, it is the type of book that is open to discussion."
--The Bob Sphere

"[McFadden's] writing style is immaculate. There is no embellishment, there is very little metaphor, there is only strict storytelling...An extremely successful way to handle this content."
--Matthew Sciarappa

"Gripping, telling and beautifully written"
--Jamie Klinger, iNews (UK)

"Abeo is unrelenting--a fiery protagonist who sparks in every scene. Bernice L. McFadden has created yet another compelling story, this time about hope and freedom."
--Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun

Critical praise for the previous works of Bernice L. McFadden:

"McFadden works a kind of miracle--not only do her characters retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises...Beautiful and evocative."
--Jesmyn Ward, New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice), on Gathering of Waters

"Simply miraculous."
--Washington Post on The Book of Harlan

About the Author

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors' Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), Glorious, and The Book of Harlan (winner of a 2017 American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction). She is a four-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the BCALA.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 8 ounces
  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1617756261
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1617756269
  • Publisher : Akashic Books (August 28, 2018)
  • Product Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 88 ratings