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Praise Song for the Butterflies
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Praise Song for the Butterflies

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  999 ratings  ·  251 reviews
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 t ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Akashic Books
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Bernice McFadden Yes. The story has been enhanced and expanded. The names of the characters have been changed and the story is not set in the fictional African country…moreYes. The story has been enhanced and expanded. The names of the characters have been changed and the story is not set in the fictional African country of Ukemby. (less)

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4.11  · 
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 ·  999 ratings  ·  251 reviews

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Angela M
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing

“It was 1985; Abeo was nine years, seven months, and three days old.”

“It was 1987 and Abeo was eleven years, six months and twenty-two days old.”

“It was 1998 and Abeo was twenty-two years, eight months, and seventeen days old.

“It is 2009, and Abeo is thirty-three years, seven months, and twenty-four days old”

Seemingly simple statements of fact - the year and exact age of Abeo, the main character in this novel at various times in her life, yet these were some of the most powerful sentences in th
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A father has had a series of bad luck experiences.
Rich in traditions of satisfying gods to ensure luck turns around, a daughter is given up as sacrifice.
Once rescued, Abeo struggles with the decision that was made; of rebuilding relationships and finding her true self moving forward amid the horrible experiences she lived through for 15 years.
Not sure how a parent could ever make such a horrendous decision no matter how much things have gone awry. The practice of ritual servitude is one that tak
Diane S ☔
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
West Africa, Abeo is a happy nine year old, living a priviledged life of two parents who love each other. Her father has a steady job working for the government and Abeo is soon graced with a baby brother. Her happy home life begins to crumble when her father is suspended from his job, while an investigation into theft is completed. After this trouble after trouble begins to haunt this family. His mother, still believing in the old Gods, convinces her son to take Abeo to a shrine, leaving her th ...more
Lark Benobi
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is something completely unique about Bernice McFadden's writing style. There is not a spare word anywhere. People get sick and die in half a sentence. Years pass simply in the next paragraph when there comes a declarative sentence stating how much older a character has become since the paragraph preceding it. To tell the truth I absolutely love this way of storytelling--it gets to the point, and then to the next point, and it keeps on that way until I get to the end. The story isn't spare, ...more
The ending rarely makes or breaks a book for me. Obviously I'd prefer my endings on the satisfying and hard-hitting side, but if a book is strong enough, I'm not usually going to fault it for a slightly lackluster conclusion. This is why I rarely write reviews with spoiler tags - I don't have any problem talking about a book in general terms of what worked for me and what didn't.

Praise Song for the Butterflies is the exception. Because for the most part, I really, really enjoyed this book. The c
Of all the books on the Women’s Prize longlist, this one I feared reading the most. And it pains me to say that I was absolutely correct in not looking forward to reading this. I struggled with this book and not in a “it was at least intellectually stimulating”-way. I found it clumsy and painful and the characters unbearable.

The book starts promising, with a fairly intriguing look into Abeo’s life in New York, and a superficial but assured introduction into the family and their dynamics. But as
There is a sex slave system in Ghana called trokosi where virgin girls, some as young as 6, are taken as compensation to right a wrong of a family member. It was outlawed twenty years ago but still practiced. This book takes place in a fictional African country but it's obviously based on Ghana, so it might as well have taken place in Ghana. I was confused why the setting had to be fictionalized; that it would be more impactful if emphasized that real countries are doing these awful things to re ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I read this in one sitting. Abeo’s story was gut wrenching and completely broke my heart- but I had to find out what happened to her. I was ensnared into Abeo’s story, a young woman who perseveres and whose fictional story mirrors so many other women’s stories in real life.

To learn of the Trokosi was eye opening and heart rendering, while making me also feel sick as to what these young girls and women had to go through. It has angered me so much and surprises me that this heinous practice
Maddie C.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it

A good premise that tackles an important and almost unknown topic, the ritual servitude in West Africa, but the execution of Praise Song for the Butterflies left much to be desired, in my opinion. Written in short chapters and divided into three key moments of the protagonists life, it is an easy and quick read but I thought it never really delved into an emotionally complex story, especially given the heavy subject matter. I felt like it barely
Erin Glover
I couldn't put it down. Literally. I made coffee while I read it this morning. I drank coffee while I read it. I soaked in my hot tub while I read it. The novel is brilliant. I felt the protagonist's abandonment. I felt the mother's guilt. I felt the power of religion and spirits. This book moved my soul. And that doesn't happen very often.

The novel was a fast read. McFadden's writing is concise. There are no wasted words. Yet she gets to the soul of the themes, of the characters very quickly. A
Alice Lippart
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Moving, engrossing and horrifying. Well worth the read.
Jamise // Spines & Vines
Let me be completely honest, I went into this book completely blind. I had no idea what it was about. Once I discovered the subject matter, I went directly to google. I was completely unaware and this book forced me to educate myself on a topic that I was not familiar with, Trokosi. The setting is a fictional West African country and we meet Abeo Kata, a 9-year-old girl who is ripped from her privileged lifestyle when her father forces her to become a slave in a religious sect.

This was a haunti
Brown Girl Reading
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this compelling story of Abeo. It's amazing how Bernice L McFadden managed to tell this story with so much detail and emotion in so few pages. I started reading in the middle of the afternoon and couldn't put the book down. Definitely recommend it, especially if you have never picked up a McFadden book before. My rating is more like a 4,5. Go to the link to watch my video review.
Gumble's Yard
I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2019 Women’s Prize.

It is published by Jacaranda Books, a London-based independent publishing house which aims “to represent the cultural and ethnic diversity and heritage that can be found in London, with a particular interest in works related to Africa, the Caribbean, and the experiences of those peoples in the Diaspora. We also seek provocative, inspirational writing that shines a light on issues affecting ethnic minorities, women, and young peop
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this because it was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2019. It is set in a fictional country between Ghana and Togo, but from what I understand the real equivalent for what happens in the story would be Ghana most accurately (I'm not sure why she set it somewhere fictional, as it makes the events feel less real, when she seems to want the reader to learn about these things that really do happen.)

Abeo is a young girl and enjoying her life but gets traded in penance/as payment
Eric Anderson
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the things I enjoy most about following the Women’s Prize for Fiction each year is that it always brings to my attention a number of books I might not have come across otherwise and almost certainly wouldn’t have read. Bernice L. McFadden is an American writer who has published several well regarded novels and a number of romance novels under the name Geneva Holliday, but she hasn’t been widely reviewed in the UK and this is the first of her novels that I’ve read. “Praise Song for the But ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
2.5 ⭐ Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. This book provides what could have been a fascinating look at the archaic practice of ritual slavery in parts of Africa. It follows the story of a young girl, Abeo, whose father gives her to a local priest to atone for the family’s past sins. Unfortunately, I found the writing very superficial, and it seemed to gloss over what should have been major plot points. ...more
Claire McAlpine
Interested in the inspiration for writing a novel, this one intrigued me; Bernice McFadden visited Ghana in 2007 and while she was there met two women who told her about a rehabilitation centre and a tradition referred to as trokosi, which they explained and suggested she write a book about, an idea she initially laughed at, but after researching the practice, a story began to emerge that she eventually pursued.

The novel is set in a fictional nation of Ukemby (avoiding comparison with the geogra
I was shocked to find I was at the end. This book took over me. To say I was engrossed isn't enough.

I will write a review later.
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I just finished the audio of Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice McFadden. I am emotionally exhausted. I listened to it all in one day & unlike Abeo I still hold the taste of bitterness from her trauma. Ms. McFadden, may I please have my heart back? Because you snatched it. As a woman and a mother of two daughters reading this was not pleasant but it was enhancing in the sense of being made to look at this type of cruelty full on.

I probably won't do a full review of this one because
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So many emotions to process before I can come back and write a review! What I will say is Ms. McFadden has done it again! Brilliant!


Where do I begin. This is a brilliantly written novel by Bernice McFadden shook me to my core. Ritual servitude is something I knew little about until reading this novel. I had heard of the awful and horrendous practice years ago in my reading but I didn’t know the depths. Ms. McFadden does an amazing job of weaving together the affects of this atrocity on a
J Beckett
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Praise Song for the Butterflies will leave you speechless, awestruck and eager to learn more about the inhumane practice called trokosi, about which I knew very little. McFadden invites the reader, as she often does, on a fantastic journey, punching at our heart and soul until we relent and simply let her take the wheel. And she drives us into the underbelly of a social dynamic that elevates her to a level both novel and assuring: McFadden can tell a story!!!!

Praise Song... is a mammoth tale env
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a quick read but I found the writing very simplistic for the gravity of the subject. What should have been challenging and confrontational to read about, seems to mostly occur off the page being inferred to instead.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That was SO good. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shut up.
Jonathan Pool
How nice it is, sometimes, to come to a book with little or no prior knowledge of the subject matter, or even of the author.
I really enjoyed Praise Song For The Butterflies which is longlisted for the 2019 Womens Prize for literature.
This is a great example of a writer’s skill in taking a real life practice, one that has existed for years, and continues to do so -“trokosi” or Ritual servitude - and then building an imagined, fictionalised, story around it.
Bernice McFadden has drawn on the consid
Who knew that there are countries in Africa where young girls are provided to the priest of a shrine village to be sex slaves called trokosis? Well, it is true. This novel tells the story of one such young girl who was given to the shrine when she was nine years old by the man she thought was her father so that the family's luck would change. She is there until she is bought by a rescue worker and becomes a resident at a rehabilitation camp for trokosis. She eventually recovers and is reunited w ...more
Callum McLaughlin
Rating this book has proven tricky, as there are elements of it that I loved, and elements that I found underwhelming and frustrating. The story follows Abeo, a young West African girl whose family falls on hard times in the 1980s. Her desperate father eventually sacrifices her to a religious shrine, where she endures physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; an ancient practice that was believed to atone for the sins of a family’s ancestors, thus breaking the chain of bad luck for future generatio ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful story of family, trauma and recovery, set in modern-day West Africa and America, told with McFadden’s clear prose and compassionate heart. Now, pass the damn kleenex.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it



This is a very readable and quite moving fictionalized story of a young girl whose parents have sold her into slavery after a bout of bad luck has struck the family and the father blames her for the misfortune. Following the young girls arduous and brutal path, as well as the family members who have been blindsided by the father’s actions, the You reader is not spared the detail of pain and suffering all must suffe
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read “My Name Is Butterfly” a few years back and felt like something was missing. This book brings everything full circle.
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BERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of ten critically acclaimed novels including Praise Song for the Butterflies (Long listed for the 2019 Women's Prize in Fiction ) The Book of Harlan (winner of a 2017 American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction) Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ C ...more
“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.” 3 likes
“I’m sorry that your journey into my life was such that you had to endure so much suffering. But if that is the road God had you travel in order for our paths to cross, then we have no choice but to accept the purpose it has served and be grateful for it.” 0 likes
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