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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.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

Longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction!

A Black Caucus of the American Library Association 2019 Honor title, Fiction

“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

“The novel has a timeless quality; McFadden is a master of taking you to another time and place. In doing so, she raises questions surrounding the nature of memory, what we allow to thrive, and what we determine to execute . . . McFadden brings the sweeping drama of her earlier works — The Book of Harlan, Glorious, Gathering of Waters — into this small book, and reminds me of the gentle fierceness of Edwidge Danticat’s writing.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“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

“A fictional West African country is the setting for Bernice L. McFadden’s latest work, Praise Song for the Butterflies. Here 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. Rescued after 15 years, Abeo struggles to overcome dark family secrets while learning to love again.”
Essence Magazine, one of Essence‘s Five Faves for Fall

“Bernice McFadden’s Praise Song for the Butterflies is a story about trauma and survival . . . Let me assure you: McFadden’s writing is so gentle and internal; reading it doesn’t feel like an exercise in masochism. Instead, it’s a nuanced examination of heritage, family, secrets, and resilience. Get your copy now.”
—Buzzfeed Books Newsletter

“McFadden scores big.”
Jamaica Gleaner

“Bernice McFadden turns her keen eye to the subject of ritualistic slavery in West Africa . . . McFadden weaves past and present times to build Abeo’s story, including the stories of her ancestors, which are crucial to understanding her father’s actions. McFadden’s writing is strongest in these moments, building a complicated and nuanced web of tales that reveal religious customs and cultural beliefs of a time and place that is both modern and yet rooted in the traditions of its past . . . In the moments of brilliance, it is Abeo who emerges most fully on the pages: a fierce, vibrant and complicated woman whose survival shapes not only her life, but the lives of those around her. At once a heartbreaking tale of violence and oppression and an uplifting story of hope and redemption, Praise Song for the Butterflies sheds light on the lasting legacy of ritual servitude in West Africa in way that is not easy to forget.
Shelf Awareness for Readers

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

“Bernice L. McFadden’s novel Praise Song for the Butterflies has received great reviews and will be published today. The book centers on Abeo Kata, the privileged daughter of a government employee and a stay-at-home mother in West Africa whose happy life changes dramatically after she’s placed in a shrine as an offering. Fifteen years later, Abeo is finally rescued and must learn to move beyond her traumatic past.”
Good Morning America

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

“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

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

“Heartbreaking yet ultimately redeeming, this strong survivor’s tale is told with unadorned prose and a well-paced plot. Abeo’s story is compelling, but seeing how the adults in Abeo’s life rationalize their betrayal is even more horrifically fascinating. Recommended, especially as an introduction to a lesser-known cultural practice that has become widely criminalized.”
Library Journal

“This is a novel brave enough to cast an unblinking eye on one of the most disturbing chapters in the ongoing history of female oppression, and humane enough to have found the means for a redemptive and fulfilling read.”
New York Journal of Books

“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

“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

“I was blown away by this book . . . McFadden doesn’t waste words, sometimes moving us years between paragraphs. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of the African women known as trokosi, or shrine slaves, but I’m thankful McFadden has brought their stories to the light.”

One of Book Marks’ Best Reviewed Books of the Week, August 31, 2018

Included in BookTrib’s 8 Books Featuring Memorable African American Characters

Included in Entropy Magazine‘s August/September Small Press Releases roundup

“An inspiring and provocative fictional treatment of a very real problem.”
The New Orleans Advocate

“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

“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

“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

“Bernice L. McFadden is a writer who needs more credit. In her latest novel, she discusses the trokosi, who are slave girls in Africa handed over to a ‘priest’ in order to clear their families of bad luck. We follow Abeo Kata and see how she deals with her unfortunate fate. Even while writing about a seemingly hopeless situation, McFadden restores our faith by showing how there is life after hardship and forgiveness.”
Politics & Prose, Staff Pick

“If you’re looking to spend a day enthralled in a dramatic tale of abandonment, what mercy means, and to just contemplate healing, then I would recommend you read Praise Song for the Butterflies.”
The Storyscape (BookTuber)

“This is a story about love, abuse, sacrifice, and pain, and the path to healing . . . 5 Stars.”
Reader Then Blogger

“Since Bernice L. McFadden published her debut novel, Sugar, in 2001, she has taken up the mantle of not only singing a Black woman’s song, but also digging up our histories and putting them on the pages of 12 books.”
Bitch Magazine

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

“[Readers are] honored to see a young woman, one who has survived unspeakable pain, become a woman of grace and courage.”
The Cyberlibrarian

“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

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

“A beautiful, poignant tale of family, trust, love, and secrets.”
All for the Books

“I read so that I can be transported and Praise Song for the Butterflies does just that. Bernice McFadden can inhabit any culture, any character, any experience, and Praise Song for the Butterflies is no exception. For those hours I was with Abeo, a daughter sacrificed to a religious sect, the burdens of her heart were mine.”
The Millions, included in Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s “A Year in Reading”

“Ms. McFadden, may I please have my heart back? Because you snatched it . . . There is no question that I would recommend reading this one. Just be prepared for the heartache.”
Monlatable Book Reviews, included in Favorite Reads of 2018

“McFadden’s stories have consistently taken readers into the heart of not just the land but the people, reflecting base instincts and our truest selves.”
Electric Lit

Praise Song for the Butterflies was a complete surprise. For a coming of age story it is quite original and due to its many themes, it is the type of book that is open to discussion.”
The Bob Sphere

“[McFadden’s] writing style is immaculate. There is no embellishment, there is very little metaphor, there is only strict storytelling . . . An extremely successful way to handle this content.”
Matthew Sciarappa

“Gripping, telling and beautifully written”
—Jamie Klinger, iNews (UK)

“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.

Read a feature on Bernice L. McFadden at the New Orleans Advocate

Read an interview with Bernice L. McFadden at The Writer and Bitch Magazine.

Read a guest post by Bernice L. McFadden at BuzzFeed!

Read an exclusive excerpt at Shondaland!

Included in an announcement on Urban Reviews Online.

Listen to interviews with Bernice L. McFadden: Aspen Public Radio’s First Draft; WNNO’s The Reading Life; The Black Eskimo Podcast; and The Scribe Spot.

A featured title on Get Lit with Paula and at the Jacksonville Journal-Courier.

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

The November 2018 Featured Book of the Books and Brunch Book Club!

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

Watch a video review by Kay:

Book Details

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


BERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of ten 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 four awards from the BCALA. Praise Song for the Butterflies is her latest novel.

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