cover image Praise Song for the Butterflies

Praise Song for the Butterflies

Bernice L. McFadden. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-61775-626-9

McFadden’s latest (after The Book of Harlan) is the harrowing saga of young Abeo Kata, whose pleasant childhood during the late 1970s in the fictional West African town of Port Masi, Ukemby, takes an abrupt, dark turn. Abeo is indulged by her parents and an aunt visiting from New York, but her life changes trajectory after her rural grandmother moves in and forces outdated customs on the family. Shortly thereafter, Wasik, Abeo’s father, has a spate of financial woes and his mother insists that abandoning Abeo at a shrine is the only way to alleviate his troubles. Wasik is horrified by the prospect but reluctantly follows his mother’s advice, driving several hours in the night to deliver the terrified nine-year-old into ritual servitude. Abeo plunges into grueling work in the fields alongside other children of varying ages. Abeo’s mother attempts to locate her daughter, but learns there are countless shrines tucked away in remote villages. During the years that Abeo is enslaved, she relies on memories for comfort before she is finally freed. After her release, Abeo completes a rehabilitation program before beginning to mend her tattered past. 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. (Aug.)