Butter Honey Pig Bread

Narrated by Amaka Umeh
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Pub Date 05 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2021

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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.


Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize

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

Butter Honey Pig...

Available Editions

EDITION Audiobook
ISBN 9781773057422
DURATION 12 Hours, 11 Minutes

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (AUDIO)

Average rating from 22 members

Featured Reviews

An absolutely stunning and transportative family saga. This book follows three characters: twin sisters Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother Kambirinachi. The timeline jumps around between the present day reunion of the three, the time the twins spent estranged as young adults, and then back to their mother’s story (from birth to adulthood). The story is so full of love, guilt, pain, trauma, and personal discovery. And then there are elements of magic/mysticism/folklore that take me by surprise- Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, a non-human spirit in the Nigerian tradition that plagues a family with misfortune. This element is introduced at the very beginning of the novel, but as the story unfolds you sort of get carried away in the reality of the characters so that you forget about it, until it is dropped back in matter of factly, and then: ohhhhh yeah! Angry spirits. It is just so well done. It should also be noted the story takes place over three continents, with the characters exploring their identities in Europe and North America, and bringing that self knowledge home with them to Africa.

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Butter Honey Pig Bread is a feast for the senses. It is indulgent, sensuous, visceral, and layered. It is a book to be savoured slowly, letting the sumptuous prose carefully peel away the layers to reveal richly developed authentic characters who want to live fully and freely but are struggling to heal familial wounds.

“Hold it gently, this hungry beast that is your heart. Feed it well.”

This book centers on the lives of three Nigerian women, Kambinarachi, a woman who considers herself an Ogbanje, an Igbo reincarnating spirit who dies repeatedly in childhood to the grief of her family, and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye.

The theme of consumption, both literal and figurative, runs deep within this novel. Decadent food and bodies are relished and devoured. Taiye dives deep into hedonism to “quench the howling loneliness” that consumes her. Kambi is constantly battling and negotiating with her spiritual kin who consume her thoughts, and Kehinde is consumed by her past traumas and fears, making reconciliation between the three family members difficult.

Ekwuyasi's portrayal of trauma, loneliness, queerness, and mental health is honest, messy, and full of heart. This novel is an exquisite exploration of characters. If we had to choose, Taiye’s chapters were our favourite (not to mention she makes the best food)! We also loved the secondary characters that came in and out of the women’s lives. Each one unique and fully realized for the short time we get to know them.

This book transports us across the globe from Lagos to South London, from Montpellier to Montreal, from Halifax to Tangier. Having traveled and/or lived in four of these six places, I loved immersing myself in places familiar to me, yet experienced anew from the character’s point of view. There is a tremendous sense of place in this novel.

The food, the characters, the locations, the conversations and the healing. Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel begging to be devoured!

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This interwoven story of family and self is one to savor. The writing evokes emotion and a feeling of being part of the places and experiences. The food and love scenes are at different times sweet, spicy or savory. Descriptions of cooking, and sex, were detailed and exquisite. Relationships were complicated, and gaining understanding from multiple characters led to deep understanding of the impacts of beliefs, trauma, fears, and love.

When Kehinde reads the letters and gets to know what was happening with Tanya's life, it's gripping. The out of order, crumbs are incredibly interesting and mirrors how we never get a true full story about the lives of those closest to us.

"I think Taiye is avoiding me, which is ironic and extremely irritating considering how often she use to write to me when we were a whole ocean apart. But I know I have no right to be annoyed or demand more than she's giving considering how absent I've been. Ocean, or bedroom door, or unspoken hurt, something always remains lodged between us."

I enjoy the audiobook and the exceptional reading preformed by Amaka Umeh is one not to miss.

Long-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize 2020
Short-listed, Canada Reads 2021

Thank you to Net Galley and Bespeak Audio Editiobs for providing access to the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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