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.
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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.
Published: February 2021
“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 food—whose preparation offers these characters catharsis, knowledge, and sometimes simply pleasure.” — The New Yorker
“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)
“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 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.” — Globe and Mail (”Globe 100: Best Books of the Year”)
“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)
“Ekwuyasi’s prose conjures up a particular energy and literary finesse reminiscent of Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater.” — The Puritan