2021 CANADA READS FINALIST
Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize
An intergenerational saga about three Nigerian women: a novel about food, family, and forgiveness.
Butter Honey Pig Bread is a story of choices and their consequences, of motherhood, of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones, of voracious appetites, of queer love, of friendship, faith, and above all, family.
Francesca Ekwuyasi's debut novel tells the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi feels she was born an Ogbanje, a spirit that plagues families with misfortune by dying in childhood to cause its mother misery. She believes that she has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family and now lives in fear of the consequences of that decision.
Some of Kambirinachi's worst fears come true when her daughter, Kehinde, experiences a devasting childhood trauma that causes the family to fracture in seemingly irreversible ways. As soon as she's of age, Kehinde moves away and cuts contact with her twin sister and mother. Alone in Montreal, she struggles to find ways to heal while building a life of her own. Meanwhile, Taiye, plagued by guilt for what happened to her sister, flees to London and attempts to numb the loss of the relationship with her twin through reckless hedonism.
Now, after more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos to visit their mother. It is here that the three women must face each other and address the wounds of the past if they are to reconcile and move forward.
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and filmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging. Her writing has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, the Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story "Orun is Heaven" was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, is her first novel.
In this remarkable debut novel, a family of Nigerian women attempt to carefully tiptoe around an unspeakable tragedy. Through masterfully crafted scenes full of sumptuous imagery, readers are moved, just as these characters are, by forces beyond their control, beyond their lifetimes. -Catherine Hernandez, author of Scarborough
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a new and exciting voice, the kind of writer whose work both challenges and enlightens. With Butter Honey Pig Bread, she has written a deeply moving novel that explores trauma, healing, and the beautifully complex relationships between mothers and daughters with vivid honesty. This is an inspiring debut. -Zeba Blay, senior culture writer, Huffington Post
In this incandescent book, Francesca Ekwuyasi travels across continents and time to tell the story of an Ogbanje mother and her two estranged daughters in sensuous, mythic prose that pulled me into their interwoven narratives. Dissolution of spirit and mind, alienation, painful familial rifts, and queer desire reverberate through this gorgeous debut. Ekwuyasi's wondrous way with language is a profound gift. -Tanais, author of Bright Lines
This multi-continental tale is alight with the force of its characters' sway between history and the present, home and country, family - chosen and otherwise. Where expectations of genre leave their own delicious signatures across fabulism, the folkloric, the strange, and a mercurial realism, the queerness and sensuality of this debut novel excites. Butter Honey Pig Bread roves taste-first through the ingredients of things that mark the modern, if enduring, currents of familial and amorous bonds by a writer of ample talent. -Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphxst
A luminous talent reveals itself in debut novelist Francesca Ekwuyasi's Butter Honey Pig Bread. This intergenerational tale of three Nigerian women finding their way through a maze of love, memory, and trauma weaves a haunting spell over the reader from its very first word. Ekwuyasi's sensuous prose, deft plotting, and keen insights into human nature combine to form a vision that feels like peering deep into the souls of a trio of dear friends. At once delicious and heartbreaking, Butter Honey Pig Bread will leave the reader full, yet longing for more. -Kai Cheng Thom, author of I Hope We Choose Love
It is a rare pleasure when a debut novel appears with such a fully realized, confident voice as Francesca Ekwuyasi's Butter Honey Pig Bread. -Quill and Quire ("Books of the Year")
Ekwuyasi's prose conjures up a particular energy and literary finesse reminiscent of Akwaeke Emezi's Freshwater. -The Puritan
The descriptions throughout the novel, from Taiye's cooking to the feel of Lagos to the urgency of new love, invite readers to fully savor Ekwuyasi's language. Mixing emotional depth with supernatural elements, this is a masterful debut. -Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)
In this remarkably assured debut, three women search to reconnect after an event tore them apart. It's sexy, too, and it'll make you hungry with all its talk of food. -The Globe and Mail ("Globe 100: Best Books of the Year")
Spanning decades, this fast-paced debut novel moves from Lagos to Montreal, Halifax, and London as it traces the sorrows and triumphs of a pair of estranged twin sisters and their troubled mother . .. The novel abounds with sex, death, and foodâ??whose preparation offers these characters catharsis, knowledge, and sometimes simply pleasure. -The New Yorker
Ekwuyasi's magical debut delves into the reverberating effects of a Nigerian mother's choices on her twin daughters' lives. The stories of Kambirinachi and her daughters, Taiye and Kehinde, unfold in lyrical, emotionally affecting parallel narratives . .. Written in sizzling prose, Ekwuyasi's assured, inspired debut will impress fans of Akwaeke Emezi. -Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)