Review: Praise Song for the Butterflies

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Review for "Praise Song for the Butterflies" by Bernice McFadden (2018)
Rating: 4.5 stars

Aye, a great book.

“Praise Song for the Butterflies” takes place in the fictional African nation of Ukemby with Abeo Kata, a middle class young girl being raised by loving parents. Her life is filled with joy and happiness until a streak of bad luck hits the family: Abeo’s father is investigated for embezzlement on his job, her baby brother falls ill, and financial strain sets in. To alleviate the bad luck, Abeo is taken in the middle of the night by her father to a remotely located shrine to become a trokosi, a ritual slave to a local priest.

Abeo spends most of her teenage and young adult years as a trokosi, a life filled with hard labor, rape, and daily physical abuse. I won’t tell you how the story ends (I don’t spoil books I like), but there is hope, a definite light in the darkness for Abeo as well as the thousands of women like her who are still victims to this awful practice.

Although the African country in this novel is fictional, the author’s notes make it clear that trokosi does still take place in parts of Africa, despite many governments ban of it. Before this book, I had no idea that this practice was in existence. Young virgin girls (and in some cases, boys) as young as 5 are taken to religious shrines as a living sacrifice to atone for the crimes of a family member or ancestor, or as repayment for services rendered from the shrine. The girl stays at the shrine for a lifetime, forced to have sex with the priest, or in Abeo’s case, local men who pay to visit. It’s a horrifying life that Abeo is forced into, and the author does an excellent job of weaving together all sides of the practice, whether one is involved directly or indirectly.

Definitely read this book. 4.5 stars.

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Review: Loving Donovan

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Review for “Loving Donovan” by Bernice McFadden (2015)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a male-female love story with a unique structure–a section for “Her” that follows the female character, Campbell, from childhood to young adulthood; another for “Him” that follows the male character, Donovan, for roughly the same period in his life, and finally a section for “Them,” that documents Campbell and Donovan’s romance.

First off, there are no secrets in this book. We know from the first page that this is a couple that’s doomed and ultimately not going to work out. This is not the story of what happens in the end, but how and why each character gets there. Each in their 30’s, both characters are wounded, hurt, and just plain wrong for one another. Both have had lives full of disappointment–abuse, adultery, divorce–and each character’s family and friends’ lives don’t fare much better. It’s a uniquely African American story about a circle of dysfunction; a generational curse. It’s a reminder that each of us carries around a personal history,’ghosts’ from the past, that ultimately influences the success or failure of future romantic relationships.

It’s an engrossing story, but I wish it had gone a little more in-depth. The ending felt kinda rushed and another 30 pages of detail would not have spoiled this book in the least. It’s a decent book, which never stopped moving from start to finish. As I’ve said in some other reviews I’ll be publishing here soon, Bernice McFadden is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. This book doesn’t disappoint.