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Praise Song for the Butterflies


A young woman must learn to love and trust again after experiencing the brutality of ritual servitude in West Africa.

Forthcoming: 8/28/18

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“An engrossing novel that truly is a praise song for survivors everywhere.”
Kirkus Reviews

“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

“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, Included in Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview

“McFadden, writer of great, imaginative novels for years now (including Sugar and Gathering of Waters), is back with one of her best yet. Exploring ritual sacrifice in contemporary West Africa, Praise Song offers a fascinating, painful glimpse into a world beyond America’s shores, filled with tragedy and love and hope.”
Entertainment Weekly, One of 20 New Books to Read in August

“McFadden crafts a compassionate, unforgettable story of loss and redemption.”
BBC Culture, One of 10 Books to Read in August

“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.”
BUST, Included in August New Books Roundup

“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, Included in Must-Read Books for Summer 2018

“Perhaps one of the best books of the year, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a stunning, brief portrait that humanizes the plight of those in ritual servitude. It’s a fantastic work from a gifted author.”
The Gazette

Praise Song For The Butterflies is a contemporary, eye-opening and heart-breaking account of ritual servitude in West Africa.”
The Curious Reader, Included in a list of The 11 Most Anticipated Books Releasing in August

Praise Song for the Butterflies is written like a fable — one of devastation, but triumph, too. Bernice L. McFadden’s novel sheds light on the long practice of trokosi, ritual servitude to priests”
Refinery29, Included in New Books for August 2018

“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.”

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.”
Bitch Media, Included in Bitchreads: 13 Books All Feminists Should Read in August

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

“Ramunda and her husband, Derrick, are dedicated to providing their community with access to books ‘for, about, and by the people of the African Diaspora.’ The shelves are thusly stocked with the works of such notables as Chinua Achebe and Alice Walker, as well as a wide selection of new releases. Recent favorites include . . . award-winning novelist Bernice L. McFadden’s forthcoming Praise Song for the Butterflies, about a nine-year-old West African girl sacrificed into religious servitude.”
Vanity Fair, from in a feature on DC’s Mahogany Books

“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.”
AALBC, Book Club Pick for November 2018

Included in 22 Upcoming Releases by Authors of Color Featured at BEA

“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

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


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 the girl in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is held in 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, this novel is a contemporary story that offers an eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break you heart and then heal it.

Listen to a live interview with Bernice L. McFadden on The Scribe Spot.

Selected as AALBC’s This Coffee Will Make You Black Online Book Club Pick for November 2018.

Watch this video interview with Bernice L. McFadden from AALBC.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Published: 8/28/18
  • IBSN: 9781617756269
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756511
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617755750


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. Praise Song for the Butterflies is her latest novel.

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