Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
Championed by Roger Mooking
About Butter Honey Pig Bread
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 devastating 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. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)
Butter Honey Pig Bread was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.
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"A big part of my work is in reconciling my queerness with my faith. But the older I get, the more I talk to people and the more I research, I see they are not separate. We have a lot of dichotomies in our head about good and bad or dead and alive. But these aren't just dichotomies; they exist.
"Human relations are muddy. I love my mother AND we don't talk often. I am extremely lonely in Halifax AND I have a loving community.
A big part of my work is in reconciling my queerness with my faith.- Francesca Ekwuyasi
"Life is so muddled, I wanted to show that with Kambi and her relationship with her daughters. Kambi believes she is an ogbanje and that colours her whole life. The novel is about what that means for the perception of herself and her relationships.
"I wanted to show that, whether or not she is an ogbanje, the truth is she loves her daughters and she's unable to show up fully for them in ways that the daughters would want from a mother."
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Early in the morning the house existed in a quiet hush, a spell destined to break moments after a power outage, when the generator would roar electronics back to life. Taiye liked quiet. She wondered if, and how much, it would change when Kehinde and Farouq arrived.
When she'd arrived almost a year ago with intentions to stay, she found the house in a sort of passive disarray. Thick cobwebs hung in dirty grey clusters in every corner. A layer of dust had settled in and covered all the surfaces. Really, the house seemed untouched, as if no one lived there. Hot rage shot through Taiye's travel-worn body at the sight of the place, because she'd paid a housekeeper to clean and cook for her mother. And when she saw her mother, saw how prominently the delicate bones of her clavicles pushed so taut against sallow skin, saw her sunken cheeks and the utter joy that brightened her face when Taiye appeared, she choked on the gasp that threatened to escape her throat. She'd embraced her mother, and then marched to the kitchen, where the plump housekeeper was eating a large portion of amala and chicken stew. Taiye said, "Please finish your food. I'll pay you for next month, but you have to leave today."
From Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi ©2020. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press.
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