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Butter Honey Pig Bread by Ekwuyasi
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Butter Honey Pig Bread (edition 2021)

by Ekwuyasi (Author)

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663317,498 (4.32)11
Member:MellDK
Title:Butter Honey Pig Bread
Authors:Ekwuyasi (Author)
Info:Arsenal Pulp Press (2021), 368 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
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Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

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This book came in second in the 2021 Canada Reads battle of the books. It was also picked by the Globe and Mail as one of the top 100 books of 2020. So you go into starting this book wondering if it deserves those accolade. I'm here to tell you it does. I haven't read the winner of the 2021 Canada Reads contest, Jonny Appleseed, yet but I'm looking forward to it.

This book is about three Nigerian woman, the mother Kambirinachi, and her twin daughters, Kahinde and Taiye. Spiritual beliefs figure large in this book. Kambirinachi believes she is an ogbanje which is a spirit that plagues families by dying in childhood. Kambirinachi chose to remain living but she hears the voices of the Kin who want her to come back to the spirit world. Kambirinachi does not tell her daughters about her spirit visitations but she has always been seen as someone who is mentally unstable. Kahinde and Taiye were very close as young children; Taiye was slow to speak so Kahinde always spoke for her. Then an event drove the girls apart and they have not even spoken for many years. Taiye was in England for a long time but Kahinde went to Canada where she became an artist and got married. Taiye also spent time in Canada but in Nova Scotia while Kahinde was in Montreal. Concerned about Kambirinachi Taiye has returned to Lagos to look after her. Taiye is queer and a gifted cook. She has never had a committed relationship although she came close with a woman in Halifax. As the book starts Taiye is making a fabulous sounding cake to welcome Kahinde and her husband to Lagos. As the book continues the mother and the daughters work through the issues they have with one another. They also eat some fabulous meals.

This book was uplifting and oprimistic and interesting. Ekwuyasi is a writer to watch out for. ( )
  gypsysmom | May 2, 2021 |
This book has been on my radar since it was longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Earlier this year, it was the runner-up in Canada Reads. (I didn’t listen to the Canada Reads debate because I had not read any of the books and I was listening to this one at the time and wanted to form my own opinion.)

The book focuses on three Nigerian women. Kambirinachi, who believes she is an ogbanje, gives birth to twin girls, Taiye and Kehinde. The sisters have a very close bond but a traumatic event erodes that connection. Much of the novel depicts how the estrangement affects them. Years later, the two reunite in Lagos where they confront what caused their rift.

The narrative is non-linear, divided among the three characters and moving back and forth between past and present. Taiye receives the most attention and so is most fully developed. Her letters to her sister, letters which Kehinde has belatedly received, also show Taiye’s unhealthy habits and fragile emotional state.

The novel excels in its examination of the effects of trauma and perceived betrayal. Kehinde is angry and resentful; she moves from Lagos to Montreal to start a new life though she suffers from poor self-esteem, especially as related to her body image. Taiye is plagued by guilt and attempts to numb herself by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Lonely without her sister, she becomes rather promiscuous.

The sisters live physically apart – Taiye moving between London and Montpellier and Halifax and Kehinde choosing Montreal – but they are brought together in Lagos because of their mother’s health. Though the twins avoid opportunities to openly communicate, a confrontation is inevitable. Unfortunately, when the climax does occur, it falls flat; the important scenes are handled very simplistically. Things have been left unsaid for so long that I think the two need to talk much more to recover from their emotional distance; I certainly expected more.

An element I did enjoy is the cultural explanation of mental illness. Kambirinachi would probably be diagnosed as a schizophrenic, but she believes she is an ogbanje, in Igbo culture a spirit child who is repeatedly born just to die. She makes the choice to remain with her human family, knowing that she will pay a heavy price. The voices of her Kin constantly call her toward death so she can rejoin them.

The novel is beautifully written so the narrative flows. And the many descriptions of Nigerian food certainly had my mouth watering. However, the story is one that has been told often; in fact, I just finished reading another novel by another Canadian (The Good Father by Wayne Grady) that examined the long journey to healing after a close relationship has been fractured. Considering the accolades the book has received, I was expecting more. Other than the cultural angle, there is not much new here.

Perhaps I’ll listen to the Canada Reads podcasts to discover more about the book.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | May 1, 2021 |
This is the story of three women: Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Taiye and Kehinde. The mother believes she is from the spirit world and has disappointed her Kin by deciding to stay in the real world. As she becomes more and more anchored to earthly life through marriage and motherhood, her spirit Kin continue to haunt her. Taiye and Kehinde become estranged after a traumatic childhood event but have both returned to Nigeria from Canada to visit their aging mother. This is the story of how they attempt to reunite and heal the wounds that have separated them.

It's a good story and the writing is strong. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would from the description -- the characters are just so well wrought. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 22, 2021 |
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Epigraph
Pain-eater fast today; starve yourself for a while
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For my grandmother, my brothers, my family by blood and by choice.
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We are kin.
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