Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi has been on my radar since it was longlisted for the Giller Prize in 2020. The title is appealing with a bit of mystery to it and the story sounded engaging as well. I was happy when the book was shortlisted for Canada Reads 2021 because it was the final push to get reading.
This novel takes place in Nigeria and Canada. It is narrated by Kambirinachi and her twin daughters Kehinde and Taiye. When the novel begins we know that there is tension between these women and they are about to be reunited after quite some time. From Kamirinachi we learn of her past and how she believes she is an ogbanje - a spirit born that plagues the family by dying in childhood and being reborn. She decides to live, she falls in love and raises her two daughters.
Growing up, Kehinde and Taiye are close as twins tend to be. Taiye doesn't speak much but Kehinde has her words. They look for one another and the other is always there. Until there is a trauma that begins to separate them. Kehinde and Taiye both leave, Kehinde to Montreal and Taiye to Halifax. Their lives are very different, but they each experience guilt and loneliness, rejection and love.
The relationships are authentic and deeply moving. Somehow, Ekwuyasi is able to cover a lot of topics: racism, queer love, miscarriage, rape, motherhood, faith, and family dynamics.
This is a beautifully written debut novel. The lyrical prose paint vivid pictures of culture, especially of food. The descriptions of food make you drool but also lead to memories or give you more insight to a character. The language is like reading a melody and I look forward to the next novel from Francesca Ekwuyasi.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛