Trigger Warnings: This book contains references to suicide, sexual abuse/pedophilia, drug use, miscarriage and homophobia.
Source: Library E-Book
About Canada Reads
I chose Butter Honey Pig Bread because it is a Canada Reads Contender. It is my first read of the Canada Reads 2021 season. For those who don’t know, Canada Reads is a survivor-style show put on by the CBC where well-known Canadians each pick a book and champion it to win. This year’s theme is “One Book to Transport Us“. The Canada Reads show takes place from March 8 to 11, 2021.
Roger Mooking picked Butter Honey Big Bread for his Canada Reads choice and says: “[this book] treads verses, continents, time, the bonds of family. It explores Nigerian culture, folklore. It takes place in Halifax, Montreal, London and various parts of Nigeria. There is repetitive familial traumas…and it challenges the notion of kin.“
I was unfamiliar with Roger Mooking before he was chosen as a Canada Reads champion, but now know that he is a chef and restaurateur among other things.
About the Author
Author Francesca Ekwuyasi is originally from Lagos, Nigeria but now lives in Halifax. I believe this is her debut novel, and what an amazing first it is!
As Roger Mooking said, Butter Honey Pig Bread takes place in multiple countries, including Canada. It starts out with the story of Kambirinachi and then moves on to tell the interconnected stories of her twin daughters Kehinde and Taiye, moving back and forth between the stories of each character – past and present.
It is no spoiler (basically this is in every description of the book) that a traumatic event Kehinde experiences in childhood splinters the relationship between all three characters and serves as the catalyst for Kehinde and Taiye finding their own path and leaving Kambirinachi behind in Lagos.
This was a five-star read for me! It was at times funny, sad, inspiring and has complex characters that I can imagine returning to and rediscovering in the future.
I loved the weaving of the story and timeline between each character, although I most enjoyed Taiye’s character. I felt she was the most well-developed and interesting. As I read, I placed Taiye in my mind as the main character, although I’m not sure if that was the author’s intent or just my own reading.
As the story delves into the past and present it provides the reader with a taste of the underlying issues and relationships between Mother and each twin, pushing you on to discover more.
One of my favourite parts of Butter Honey Pig Bread, although not a major storyline by any means, is the author’s commentary on colonialism and Indigenous issues in Canada. It is written from the perspective of an “outsider” (Taiye) who has only recently arrived in Canada for the first time to attend culinary school.
Food plays a huge role in Butter Honey Pig Bread, which should come as no surprise given Taiye’s cooking/chef background. Perhaps this is why I focused on Taiye’s character so much because I love books with lots of food descriptions and cooking!
Francesca Ekwuyasi masterly entwines food descriptions with Taiye’s feelings and circumstances:
“salted caramel chocolate cake for your twin sister who you haven’t seen in…God, a long time.“
“Former lovers aside, this how you make native jollof rice, or, in Effik, iwuk edesi.“
“This is how you make mosa with your sister on the day she returns home.“
You will probably like Butter Honey Pig Bread if you are a fan of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie or Yaa Gyasi.