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. Praise Song for the Butterflies is a cautionary tale with a cruel twist ... 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. Despite the novel’s spare style and story line, there is fleeting joy and relief ... For me, the sparseness of Praise Song is one of its strengths; for some, it may be a weakness ... McFadden is too accomplished a storyteller to leave the reader with anything less; yet it is redemption hard-won and fragile as a butterfly’s wings.
Horrific, yes, but McFadden gives readers a strong foothold at the start: the book opens with Abeo in her 30s, living independently, a world away in New York City. We know that she makes it, a truth that transforms this novel into a gripping page turner, as readers are anxious to learn about her escape and her path toward building a new life ... Beautifully written and expertly structured, Praise Song for the Butterflies includes plenty of twists, such as surprises about Abeo’s lineage, as well as delicate explorations of the gray areas that surface for Abeo—and her family—when she returns to her former life. Abeo’s time in New York is particularly well-drawn, as McFadden doesn’t oversimplify the difficulties of recovery and demonstrates (particularly through Femi) the importance of patience, understanding and unconditional love. 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.
McFadden expertly illustrates how a family could justify the sacrifice of an innocent child for [the] greater good of the family. But the reader is forced ask what about child? What sense of understanding does she have? None—is the answer McFadden gives ... McFadden’s talent is apparent in her presentation of the community’s acceptance of a child’s disappearance ... McFadden’s innocent girl child’s journey through trokoski, 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.
The prepubescent Abeo faces endless horrors in a life of ritual servitude, and McFadden...pulls no punches in immersing the reader in the utter darkness of Abeo’s suffering. Even more terrifying than Abeo’s trials is the revelation that even the educated can be swayed, under pressure, to commit the most brutal acts. This harrowing yet compelling tale is not for the faint of heart but does promise redemption in the most trying of circumstances.
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.