Praise Song for the Butterflies … a review

Here is another book that is shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. The author is Bernice L. McFadden, who is American and has written a number of novels. I must confess, I had never heard of her. But now I am glad I have.

Praise Song for the Butterflies is the story of Abeo Kata, a young girl who lives in the fictitious West-African country Ukemby. Life for her is perfectly normal until misfortune befalls her family. Her father is accussed of corruption,  and her Grandmother, a modern day Mrs Danvers, convinces her son, Abeo’s father, that their bad luck is because of his daughter. And to right this wrong, her father takes Abeo in the middle of the night, and unbeknownst to her mother, deposits her as trokosi. Trokosi sounds like a fictitious practice because it is so brutal. But turns out, it is alive and well in certain African countries as the ritual sacrifice of young girls to a ‘shrine’ to atone for the family’s misdeeds.

At the shrine, Abeo is tortured, mistreated, and raped. She is one of many girls in this shrine, but hundreds of such shrines exist. McFadden’s writing is deliberate and sharp, there are no wasted words, no euphemisms. As Abeo’s life takes her all the way to America, eventually, the story comes full circle. The style of prose reminded me of two other books. The first was The Secret Life of Bees, because of the cult-like shrine that Abeo was trapped in. And the second was Of Love and Other Demons, as the damaging effects of bigots. This is a fantastic piece of fiction, with a unique and heartbreaking theme.

2 thoughts on “Praise Song for the Butterflies … a review

  1. Pingback: 5 Books to Read in One Sitting | BookMark

  2. Pingback: 5 Books about the Black Experience | BookMark

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