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My Name Is Butterfly

Well? What are your thoughts on our latest read?

I thought this book was really well written. Most of the characters were very “real” to me and I could picture each one as I read.  I think I’ve mentioned this before – if I’m interested in the characters’ and their lives I consider the book (regardless of subject matter) a success.

Speaking of subject matter I really appreciated Ms. McFadden’s handling of the topic of female sex slavery. The book could’ve been a whole lot more graphic and disturbing – thankfully it was not. I think she broached the subject respectfully without cleaning it up too much – if that makes sense.

So what did y’all think of Abebe, of her family, of their trials, of this book?  I will say I thought the Grandmother was a bit stereotypical – evil, domineering mother-in-law – she had not one single redeeming quality which was too bad.  I prefer characters to be a little more realistic – I don’t think most people are “all good” or “all bad” rather a mix with strong tendencies toward one or the other.

Anyhoo, the floor is open – head over to the comments and discuss…

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26 thoughts on “My Name Is Butterfly

  1. I liked the book, loved it even. I’ve recommended it to a few friends as a good read. I thought it interesting that Abebe’s aunt, who was actually her mom, was super attentive when Abebe lived in Ghana but almost wished her away once Abebe was in the US. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the things that happened to Abebe or if the aunt was so fearful someone would find out Abebe was her child while in the US that she kept her distance.

    • I think the fact that Serwa reacted to Abebe’s presence as an adult the way she did made the story more plausible to me. It would’ve been too fairy tale-ish, if Serwa had been open and welcoming to Abebe. Her struggle with guilt made her believable.

  2. I found the story haunting and sad – with a ring of truth to it.
    I’m an immigrant; as a foreigner, people don’t often understand what is common or what you may go through because it doesn’t happen here.
    When we learn of tribal practices they just seem so barbaric. Why is a girl’s life not of any value? The wife did all she could but I wish she was stronger. And what sort of desperation makes a father drop his daughter off to the gods and have no idea where he did this? I guess there could be a disconnect if this wasn’t the child you birthed, but still. The book shows humans are capable of just about anything. Abebe’s poor mother – she just couldn’t understand; she was angry at herself and with everything in her life. I think she was angry that she could not protect her daughter.
    The grandmother annoyed me – but I know people like her. You have to respect your elders and their ways. She never liked all the modern day accoutrements and thought the old ways were better.
    I didnt like how all the horrors Abebe went through were attributed to God, because that’s not true. But i like how the author portrayed the triumph of the human spirit.

    • You are absolutely correct in that some things are just so foreign that I simply cannot comprehend them. I had to continually remind myself that this is not a book set two generations ago – this is, for all purposes, the here and now.

      I didn’t think the circumstances that made the father hand Abebe over were “enough” to “justify” him doing so. You lost your job, your other child is sick, you have a leaky roof and you just give your kid away?!?!? I couldn’t muster up any sympathy or understanding for him at all.

  3. I thought that this was a good book. A quick read and the subject material was engaging. Over the years I’ve read and heard alot about female genital mutilation in some African countries. But I had never heard of Trokosi. When I did some google searches it seemed to be a hot item in the late 1990 and early 2000’s but nothing was current. It makes me wonder if the practice is still going on. So that made this story very realistic for me.

    After Kwasi took Abebe to the Shrine, I really thought that Lemusi was going to make Kwasi go back and get her or she would kill him. But when she left home and then returned I knew Abebe was not going to be rescued by these people. Lemusi surprised and disappointed me the most of all of the characters. I thought the love of a mother would conquer all. And after Kwasi told her what he was considering I was shocked that she didn’t run away from him and take Abebe.

    Kwasi was foolish and lead astray by his evil mother. She was given way more power that I thought she should have, but I do know that in some traditional societies your parents are to be revered at all cost. But that crazy old bat should have been put out to pasture. She seemed just evil and vindictive for being taken away from her home.
    I wonder if Kwasi would have given away his biological daughter.

    I thought Serwa was going to turn Africa inside out to find her child or beat the information out of Kwasi. But she went home defeated and didn’t try again. And her reaction to getting her child back was just sad. She couldn’t let go of the guilt and it kept her from having a real relationship with Abebe.

    I enjoyed the flow of the book. The author didn’t dwell on any one story line too long or too graphically.

    • The fact that Lemusi didn’t kill that man shocked me to no end. I cannot imagine!!!

      I do think Kwasi would have given his biological daughter away particularly as girl children are not as treasured for lack of a better term.

      I googled “Trokosi” as well. I cannot imagine being a girl/woman in that situation. Have mercy!

  4. I enjoyed this story. Even in fiction, I love to learn something new. I’d never heard of the trokosi before this book. So much so, that like onefromphilly, I had to go and google and read up on the practice.

    That said, while the characters were well-written, with the exception of the girls at the village, I felt very judgmental of them all — in a really bad way. I didn’t like the mean old grandmother, the weak-willed father, the shallow and easily placated mother, the aunt who looked for her daughter/niece for two days, that awful rapist at the trokosi village. Maybe the horror of what Abebe endured hardened my heart to them but I had NO sympathy for any of them and wanted only the worst things to happen to them all.

    • I had a lot of resentment for many of the characters, as well.

      I loved that Abebe found Coffie and Efua, who welcomed her in and became the family she deserved. In a story filled with so many pitiful people, they were a breath of fresh air.

    • You know how some people talk to movies? Well, I talk to books. Glad I read this one when Smoochy was gone ’cause I was fussing up a storm!

      Coffie and Efua were a wonderful pair of characters and great reminders that there are still great people on this earth who will help you and love you when help and love are what you need most.

  5. This was a quick read, but one I definitely count as a keeper. I was immediately pulled in and felt like I “knew” the characters. My heart broke over and over for Abebe and the other girls. I fell in love with Juba’s spirit. She was willing to sacrifice herself to bring a little bit of happiness to Abebe and the others.

    In the beginning, I really liked Serwa, although I felt she was a tad irresponsible. Once it came to light that Serwa was Abebe’s biological mother, I understood why she spoiled Abebe so much when she was there.

    Lemusi plain pissed me off. Why was she not stronger? Why did she not only go back, but go along with pretending her daughter never existed? Did the knowledge of Abebe being her adopted daughter make her love her any less or dilute her maternal instincts?

    Like OneFromPhilly, once I finished the story (in one sitting, no less), I took to Mr. Google, looking for more information on trokosi. Although I already knew that the female sex slave trade was very real, I was not expecting to see that the “trokosi” practice was real.

    This story goes along with a few others that I love, but cannot stomach re-reading it too many times.

    • I felt bad for Lemusi (though I can tell I’m in the minority). She was in an awful position – mother to a child she knew she’d never see again and to a child that she still needed to be present for and provide a life for. I can see how she did what she did. I don’t agree with it, but I can definitely see it.

  6. Enjoyed the book. The name “Butterfly” indicates the transformation from one living being to another….love it!

  7. I purchased the book, downloaded it on my tablet, and broke my charger, so I have yet to read the book. ):

    But, I will be back to comment!

  8. When someone posted on Twitter that this book was available, I immediately downloaded it. You say Bernice McFadden and I am there!

    I downloaded it on Friday..read late into the night and woke up and reached for it to finish. It was a short quick read but packed with so much!

    I had recently heard about Trokosi from another book I read that was located in Ghana (I think) but Ms. McFadden took a deeper dive into the culture. The thing I “learned” from both books is that this culture is deep and real..and most importantly still exists. Althought I vehemently disagree with the whole practice, I think not believing that a parent would “give their daughters to the Gods” is unrealistic is something you must rethink. This practice was going on for hundreds of years…sad, horrible and barbaric…but it has been and still continues.

    No one can weave a story like Bernice…I was ALL UP In this book.

    I was so disappointed that Kwasi took Abebe to the Shrine! But I was more disappointed that his faith was THAT shook. And we know that when we are shook like that…we go to our core beliefs. He was raised to believe that giving a daughter would give him luck…so sad.

    I hated that Lemusi didn’t beat the black of that man and leave him for doing something so awful…and in such a nasty sneaky way! Doing it that way shows he knew it was wrong. I would have killed him and smiled as I walked over his dead, stinking body.

    I can’t imagine trying to live after Abebe went through such an awful experience. Why are people so mean and cruel? Thank god for people like Coffie and Efua.

    Overall great read…Keep em coming Ms. McFadden!

    • I will definitely be reading more of Ms. McFadden’s works – I know I’ve read Sugar, but that’s all I can recall off the top of my head.

      I would’ve liked to have had a glimpse in Kwasi’s life after Lemusi and Abebe. Was he ever regretful? Did he think the gods saved him? What did his son think of him? So many questions….

  9. I sort of crashed your book club and read the book you suggested. Like you, I finished the book wondering what happened with Kwasi’s life. The book mentioned that he remarried and I wondered how things were with his new wife and his mother. I was saddened that Abebe’s real mother (can’t think of her name right now) did not do better once Abebe went to live with her. I was so happy that she found a family that was good to her and for her. The book was really good and kept my attention from the beginning til the end. It hurt my heart to read about the little girls that were offered as slaves and the lack of compassion shown to them from the older women. But, I guess those women were once little girls in the same situation and to them it is a way of life.

    • Welcome! There is no crashing – we’re glad to have you. I wondered about the lack of compassion from the older Trokosi as well, but like you say, when that’s all you know I suppose it’s all about self preservation and making it through.

      • i think you become hardened/deadened once you’re in a bad situation for so long; you lose all hope in the goodness of people; you must think you did something wrong if your parents of all people gave you up; you can’t think straight – so you dont and try your best to accept your situation and survive (if you choose).

  10. One last thought – thank God for those who see a problem and do something to solve it; had it not been for the lady who wanted to do more with her life (I dont remember her name), and rescued the girls from their horrible situation, Abebe would not have made it out.

    • From the limited Googling I did, what the rescuer in the story did follows pretty closely along with what is being done for these girls/women in real life. Amazing all around!

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