Canada Reads

Butter Honey Pig Bread by francesca ekwuyasi

An intergenerational saga about three Nigerian women by francesca ekwuyasi: a novel about food, family, and forgiveness.

Roger Mooking championed Butter Honey Pig Bread by francesca ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021

Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. (Submitted by Roger Mooking)

Roger Mooking championed Butter Honey Pig Bread by francesca ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021.

Butter Honey Pig Bread was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist and was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for fiction.

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)

Why francesca ekwuyasi wrote Butter Honey Pig Bread

"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."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Roger Mooking

Roger Mooking on discovering and championing Black writers

3 years ago
Duration 1:09
The chef, recording artist and TV host is defending Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021.
Francesca Ekwuyasi on her Canada Reads 2021 book, Butter Honey Pig Bread

Interviews with francesca ekwuyasi

The author of Butter Honey Pig Bread talks about what it's like to have a novel on Canada Reads 2021.
We kick off an ongoing focus on what food can reveal about life, culture and society with Francesca Ekwuyasi, the Nigerian-Canadian novelist behind the Giller Prize longlisted novel Butter Honey Pig Bread. She speaks with Chattopadhyay about the role food plays in complex family dynamics and how cooking can be a way of expressing care, regret, desire for forgiveness, and more. For more, visit:

From the book

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.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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