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November 2018 – Praise Song for the Butterflies


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Praise Song for the Butterflies
by Bernice L. McFadden

Publication Date: 
List Price: $27.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 224
ISBN13: 9781617755750
Imprint: Akashic Books
Publisher: Akashic Books
Parent Company: Akashic Books

Read Our Review of Praise Song for the Butterflies

Book Description:

Praise Song for the Butterflies addresses “Trokosi,” the practice of sending girls to shrines as slaves to serve priests in order to protect their family from the gods’ anger. 




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McFadden’s novel, ‘Praise Song for the Butterflies,’ is a heart-wrenching read to say the least. Abeo, the protagonist, is sacrificed to the tradition of trokosi, a practice of ritual servitude – slavery to shrine priest - no not priest, owners of the shrines. There is little priestly about the shrine owners in McFadden’s work. From the beginning of the novel, Abeo’s child innocence is challenged and attacked. Her childhood is lost, stolen, sacrificed to a traditional belief. The trauma of the lost is laid bare before the reader; however, much to the reader’s pleasure, McFadden has Abeo work through the trauma, but it is a painful journey. Her antagonists are many: the grandmother, her adopted father and mother, her birth mother, and the shrine owners, but the most apparent antagonist would be the traditional practice and belief in trokosi. Throughout the work the reader experiences the devaluing of female children by tradition; this motif is repeated throughout the work; ironically, it is the African tradition of community that allows Abeo to start the healing process. The same community that allowed and accepted the forced sacrifice saved her. McFadden does an excellent job of displaying the pros and cons of tradition, and within the text the battle between Western Christianity and traditional African religion is shown. Again the pros and cons of both beliefs are exemplified; the problems of assimilating into Catholicism – accepting the judgment and ostracizing of the religion while holding to and employing “bush” beliefs is another constant motif in work. The most memorable scene for me was Abeo’s attempt to save her son at the river. For me, the river was a metaphor for tradition, and it attacked her child much like tradition attacked her own childhood. Yes, I would read another Bernice L. McFadden book.            

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