Book Review: Praise Song for the Butterflies

Book Review: Praise Song for the ButterfliesPraise Song for the Butterflies
by Bernice L. McFadden
on August 28, 2018
Pages: 264
Published by Akashic Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, Literary Fiction, Multicultural

Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas’ idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo’s father, following his mother’s advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.

In the tradition of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a contemporary story that offers an educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break and heal your heart.

My Takeaway

“Scars are proof of survival, they shouldn’t be hidden – it’s a story someone may need to see in order to believe that beyond their pain and suffering, there is healing.”
Bernice L. McFadden, Praise Song for the Butterflies

Praise Song for the Butterflies is intense, emotional, lyrical, painful, but yet so beautiful. McFadden is such a remarkable and talented storyteller. The novel made me reflect and think way beyond the story. First, the story of Abeo Kata and the horrible events that took place in her life completely broke my heart. As a parent, the thought of any child being enslaved is unimaginable! Up until I read the book I had never heard of the trokosi system. The trokosi system forces young girls to live and work with priests in shrines for (sometimes) their entire lives, to “pay” for the sins of family members. The girls are forced to do harsh physical labor and are sexually abused by the shrine priests. Regretfully, this horrific ritual still exists in West Africa in parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin — even though it has been illegal since 1998. I’m not sure why I am just learning about this captivating writer, but am I glad! And though the book deals with insurmountable harsh realities, McFadden is able to weave a tragic but courageous story full of courage, perseverance, hope, and love (all in 224 pages). I need to thank my @LitOnHSt book club gals @LupitaReads and @Spines&Vines for selecting a novel that will stay with me for a very long time. Thanks for introducing me to such a masterful and compelling storyteller. I look forward to reading all of her work!

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