Issa Book Review: Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden

by: Tania Lasenburg

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 her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors.

Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within 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.- Goodreads

This book was deep. But before I get into this I have to back track and in me backtracking there may be some spoilers, so be warn.

When we first meet Abeo, she is in Harlem on her way to work, which is a hair braiding salon. The location, as the author describes, is literally the same location I use to get my hair braided when I lived in NY. It was called Sow’s Hair Braiding. I’m not even sure if it is still there but for years me my mom and my sister sometimes, would get up early in the morning to get there by 8 a.m. to be the first people in. Then we would sit in the chair for between 4-6 hours, buy jewelry if the jewelry man can in and then who ever got done first, would go to the Popeyes on the corner and get lunch. Memories man!

But this memory affected me as I read this book. Those women that come from Africa, who are now braiding my hair, have a story that may be similar to Abeo. And thinking about that, all I could do was feel so terribly bad. Bad because these women have a story that I, and maybe others, didn’t care or even offer to hear.

Anyway to the book. FAN FREAKING TASTIC. Bernice L. McFadden has a way of sucking you into a story and not letting you go. The world she builds seems simple but that is the beauty of it. This isn’t a complicated story at all. It is powerful and it provides a voice for women, who do not have one.

You meet Abeo as a child and build a relationship with her as she is innocent, doesn’t really understand what is happening. You feel for her as you see something she cannot control pretty much ruins her life and continues to ruin her life until she is able to get out but only through the help of others.

If you are triggered well by horrible things happening to children, this book is not for you. Although McFadden doesn’t go into too much detail of what happens, you know what happens. There is more than enough details to know what happens even from the summary.

The pace of the novel is great. It doesn’t drag and you don’t feel as if there is a lot of unneeded fluff. There is detail without too much of it but most importantly there is hope; hope that things will get better for Abeo and for every other woman that has gone through this.

The emotional pull makes this is a rough but still such a strong read. I highly recommend it.

5 Stars