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

praise song for the butterflies bernice l mcfadden

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genres: Historical Fiction

Goodreads / Amazon

Praise Song for the Butterflies is the story of Abeo, a girl from the fictional country of Ukemby who is sent as a sacrifice to appease the gods and stop the wave of bad luck that struck the family.

I was worried about the book because of its heavy themes – I am rather sensitive and books full of themes like torture, slavery and rape are difficult to read, especially in audio format. It reminded me a bit of Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao, which I couldn’t even finish because it broke my heart and made me too anxious. And while this book was definitely heartbreaking, it didn’t feel so gratuitous and excessively detailed. There is a point, when dealing with difficult themes, that the way they’re described changes the story from relevant and helping give a voice to the people who went through those things, to just add a shock factor to the story.

This would have been a much more brilliant book if the characters had been given more depth. Most of them could have been described in one or two words and really disappointed me – I wanted to connected to Abeo’s mom, her aunt, perhaps even her father, but it was just impossible. All of them had but superficial reasons to do the things the way they did, and a lot of the story felt told instead of shown.

I’ve considered giving 2 stars, but in the end I felt that the story was interesting and relevant, plus I was always engaged in it, even if not too invested in the characters themselves.

Trigger Warnings: severe abuse, rape, torture, slavery.

5 thoughts on “Review: Praise Song for the Butterflies, by Bernice L. McFadden

  1. I totally agree – if I hadn’t been so pissed at the ending (😂) I would have gone into more detail about this, but I was also disappointed at how thin the characters were – it really felt like they were being driven by the plot and not the other way around. I just couldn’t buy that the family’s circumstances were dire enough to warrant doing that to Abeo, and the grandmother was such a cartoonish villain. But nonetheless, this book did have its really really strong points!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely agree that the lack of gratuitous violence works in this books favor. I wish so many aspects of it had been strengthened more, though! There was a lot of promise that just didn’t quite shine through.


  3. Pingback: Reaction to 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner & Thoughts on the Longlist | Naty's Bookshelf

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