Reviews of Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread

by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi X
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Nov 2020, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

Spanning three continents, Butter Honey Pig Bread tells the interconnected stories of three Nigerian women: Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye.

Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, or an Abiku, a non-human spirit that plagues a family with misfortune by being born and then dying in childhood to cause a human mother misery. She has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family but lives in fear of the consequences of her decision.

Kambirinachi and her two daughters become estranged from one another because of a trauma that Kehinde experiences in childhood, which leads her to move away and cut off all contact. She ultimately finds her path as an artist and seeks to raise a family of her own, despite her fear that she won't be a good mother. Meanwhile, Taiye is plagued by guilt for what her sister suffered and also runs away, attempting to fill the void of that lost relationship with casual flings with women. She eventually discovers a way out of her stifling loneliness through a passion for food and cooking.

But now, after more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos. 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.

For readers of African diasporic authors such as Teju Cole and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 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.

Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Taiye

Taiye awoke To a warm slick of dark blood sticking between her lean thighs. Menstrual fluid soaked through her green underwear and made a splotchy maroon map on the orange batik sheets of her bed. In recent mornings, since moving back home to Lagos, she awoke to thoughts of her bees; they lived in an olive-green hive underneath the dappled shade of the palm trees clustered in the backyard. Among the palms, lush bougainvillea cascading over the fence between the neighbour's compound dropped bright pink paper blooms like blessings upon the hive. Taiye had been romanced by the notion of keeping bees since she was a small girl, so the moment the dream was within reach, she seized it and clutched it tight. And learned hard lessons on loving the living.

On that particular morning, her first thoughts were of her sister, Kehinde.

Taiye stretched, breathing in deeply.

On the exhale, she whispered, "May I be safe," and hoped that her words would fall upon open ears. Kehinde was ...

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Reviews

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Rather than telling the story in chronological order or splitting the novel into full separate accounts of each character's life, Ekwuyasi chooses to alternate between family members as if building an elaborate layer cake, revealing in measured portions how Kambirinachi, Taiye and Kehinde all come of age while balancing love interests and life callings. The novel seems to enter and leave each character's storyline at times when the reader's interest is at its peak, which causes the format to appear deliberately episodic. This approach also has the effect of making Kambirinachi's sense of timelessness and proximity to death feel more immediate and comprehensible...continued

Full Review (758 words).

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Huffington Post
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a new and exciting voice, the kind of writer whose work both challenges and enlightens...This is an inspiring debut.

Quill and Quire ("Books of the Year")
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.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[M]agical...Written in sizzling prose, Ekwuyasi's assured, inspired debut will impress fans of Akwaeke Emezi.

Author Blurb Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphxst
Butter Honey Pig Bread roves through the ingredients of things that mark the modern, if enduring, currents of familial and amorous bonds by a writer of ample talent.

Author Blurb Catherine Hernandez, author of Scarborough
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.

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Beyond the Book

Agege Bread

Loaf of agege breadAgege (pronounced "a-GAY-gay") bread is a sweet white bread known for its unique soft and dense texture. It is a common food in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, where it is produced by local bakeries and sold by vendors on the streets. In Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi, Taiye attempts to master baking Agege bread, but finds that her version fails compared to "the particularly dense and stretchy texture of the loaves she buys from the hawkers" in Obalende, a neighborhood in Lagos.

Industrialized baking was introduced to Nigeria by Amos Shackleford, a Jamaican entrepreneur known as the "Bread King," who in 1913 began a bread business that would expand into a widespread empire. Immigrants from the West Indies like Shackleford (...

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