Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.


Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

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.

Book Details

Format: 317 pages, Paperback

Published: November 3, 2020 by Arsenal Pulp Press

ISBN: 9781551528236 (ISBN10: 1551528231)

Language: English

Literary awards: Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2020)CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2021)

Original title: Butter Honey Pig Bread

Setting: NigeriaLagos (Nigeria)

My Review of Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Firstly, this book will make you salivate. Yeah. There’s a lot of food descriptions and recipes that would literally make you hungry.

It’s a story told by the perspective of three Nigerian women, Kambirinachi, and her twin daughters, Taiye and Kehinde. For Kambirinachi, she’s an Ogbanje, a spirit child that keeps coming to the world and going back to the spirit world, but she’s determined to stay with her alive parents.

Though her spirit kin keeps dragging her back, keeps calling her back, she insists on staying, because she loves her parents and is willing to stay with them.

Her own perspective of the story is a little bit disconnected from the others, because half the time, it’s a struggle between her, her spirit kin, her sanity and her responsiveness to grief. She’s easily difficult to misunderstand, and people refer to her as mad.

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Because she struggles with the grief of losing her husband early in life, she is not really a present mother for her twins. She’s always disconnected, doing things nobody understands, seeing things nobody else sees.

Taiye and Kehinde are identical, but mostly different because of their body types. While Taiye is slim and has the perfect body type Kehinde always wishes she has, Kehinde is plumpy and despises her shape.

She doesn’t even eat much like Taiye, the glutton, but somehow the food Taiye eats finds a way to go to her body and make her fat. Kehinde’s perspective always reveals the fact that she’s envious of her sister.

She feels their mother loves her more, adores her more. Why always Taiye? Why never me? And when she experiences a traumatic event, she totally disconnects from Taiye and all attempts by her twin to make amends is rendered a fiasco.

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Kehinde will also disconnect from her mother too, when she goes to Canada to study. Taiye’s perspective is more sincere, more open.

She tries so hard to make amends and connect with her sister again, but Kehinde flatly refuses.

While schooling in London, she writes to Kehinde frequently and tries so hard to be in her sister’s life, but Kehinde vehemently shuts her off.

After ten years, Taiye, now a chef, has returned to Lagos to stay with her mother and Kehinde will also come home for an inevitable reunion.

When Kehinde comes home with her husband Farouq, the three women must confront their issues and embrace the wounds they hid from each other and nursed themselves.

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

One thing I noticed while reading this book is that Kambirinachi’s style of ogbanje is different.

I wouldn’t know if she was an ogbanje or outright insane. I’ve read quite a lot of books about the ogbanje, and I think they all have one thing in common; dying and coming back.

But Kambirinachi has psychic powers, and behaves insanely too. So, it’s confusing if she’s just an ogbanje, or she’s also mentally unstable.

But whichever one she is, I think she is a horrible mother. She does not hesitate to make it obvious that she loves Taiye more, because her body features are more appealing than Kehinde’s.

Who wouldn’t get jealous when her twin sister is getting all the flowers, while she barely even gets a nod of approval?

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I think this is the foundation of everything that goes on to happen in the book.

Because Kehinde has already nursed this feeling of jealousy towards her sister, it becomes easier for her to cut her off her life completely, even when Taiye does everything humanly possible to get back together with her.

Taiye would live with the guilt of forsaking her sister when she needs her the most, all her life.

She lives a life of atonement, of regret, of wanting to make things right. But I don’t really blame her, because they are still kids at the time, and there’s only so much a little girl can do to save her sister.

She doesn’t forsake her sister because she hates her, but because she too, does not know what ro do, how to handle that situation.

And before it gets out of hand, I think Kambirinachi should have done something to salvage her daughters’ relationship, but she’s too busy wallowing in her grief, to notice that her girls are drifting far apart from each other.

The relationship with her sister traumatizes Taiye, and this makes her have a commitment problem.

She thinks she is a horrible person, and would mess up every friendship and relationship, so she prefers not to commit.

I particularly enjoyed the letters she writes to Kehinde, letters that are filled with her heart, letters that plead with Kehinde’s spirit to please forgive and let them go back to how they were before the tragic event.

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

But Kehinde has an annoying obstinancy that makes her harden her heart and shut her sister out for years.

I think Kehinde is a terrible human, because even if she argues that Taiye wronged her so much, she has done more than enough to deserve her forgiveness.

Taiye would live with a broken heart all her life, but it doesn’t matter to her sister that her twin is having a difficult life because of her.

This book also points out the effect of child neglect. Kambirinachi does not do a good job in training her girls.

She is not even interested in their lives, and since they lack parental care and guidance, they would drift away.

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Children are the responsibility of their parents, and are supposed to be loved and taken care of genuinely, not compared, not neglected.

This book is centered on a dysfunctional family, and how they will finally come back together after ten years, to trash their differences.

This is a great debut work, and I will highly recommend it. Also, there are so many food recipes you might want to try out, after reading this book.

This a book about grief, food, trauma, child sexual abuse, queer love, because Taiye is gay. This book cuts across different continents and generations. I totally enjoyed it, and will rate it as 4/5.

Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, and follow me on all social media platforms. Thank you for visiting Bookish Pixie.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

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