Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

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

5/5 stars.
ebook, 441 pages.
Read from February 21, 2021 to February 24, 2021.

I’m finally starting to catch up on the Canada Reads selection for this year, hopefully just in time for the debates happening soon. This is book three of five of the Canada Reads 2021 contenders. Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi in the debates taking place on March 8-11.

Butter Honey Pig Bread begins in Lagos with a young Kambirinachi, an Ogbanje, who is a spirit that causes misfortune to a family by being born and then dying as a child, unwilling to commit to the world of the flesh and causing misery to the humans that she affects. This changes one day when she decides to stay and live as a human. This choice however, does not come without consequences. The book follows Kambirinachi through her youth, how she finds love, that then gives birth to her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. The story progresses through her daughters stories and the traumas that tears them apart. Kehinde’s childhood trauma causes her distance herself and blames her sister resulting in her running off to Canada where she becomes an artist and meets her husband. Taiye also runs off but to England where she covers her guilt and loneliness in one-night stands and benders. Taiye finds some reprieve in cooking and eventually pursues a cooking certification in Halifax, Canada. Each member of the family is haunted by the past and they can’t avoid each other forever. After Taiye returns home to take care of her mother in Lagos, Kehinde returns for a visit so that her family can meet her new husband, each are eager but reluctant to reconcile.

This is one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve read in the last few years and it reached me in ways I didn’t anticipate. It’s a story of forgiveness, friendship, love, and family that spans across three countries with a whimsical touch from the addition of Kambirinachi’s real self as an Ogbanje. I cried at the story’s climax and conclusion as the writing had me absolutely captivated and captured in this world and characters. I was more engaged with Taiye’s struggles that circle around her tumultuous and non-committal love life that allows her to neglect her own feeling of guilt. Taiye’s connections and struggles with others are immensely relatable and I found the tension between her and Kehinde familiar. There are also some amazing and intense sex scenes and scrumptious descriptions of traditional foods from Nigeria. This book really has something for everyone. I was absolutely transported with this book, in fact, I missed bus stops while reading this book I was so enthralled with it at times. The writing it concise and succinct and shows off the author’s talents as a storyteller, especially with a debut novel. I hope to see more from this author in the future.

Out of all the books I’ve read from the Canada Reads 2021 contenders this one is my favourite so far. It’s a gorgeous piece of literature with a phenomenal story and it best meets the theme of One Book To Transport Us out of the books that I’ve read. A strong contender for the winner likely to be one of my favourite reads of the year.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

“It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.”

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 579 pages.
November 15, 2018 to November 29, 2018.

I have committed a crime against books and against readers with my thoughts on this novel. How I came upon reading this book is through a smaller sin but it is the decision I made afterwards which is what makes me truly abominable. I discovered this book after watching the first season of the TV series based on the book trilogy. So my first book crime is that I read the book AFTER watching the TV show. Before I share my guilt about my most atrocious book crime, let’s discuss the book further.

Diana is a witch, though she has spent her whole life denying her heritage and her abilities. All she has ever wanted was to live a normal life and for her to reach her career goals based on her own merit. She left the US to pursue schooling in the UK as soon as she could as to escape the pressure of her aunts, who also raised her. Diana’s parents were both witches too but they were murdered when she was quite young, or so she was told. Diana’s family history and her heritage start to unearth themselves after Diana pulls a unique book out from the library. The book is magically embued and she quickly returns it after feeling its power. Shortly after, creatures of all kinds start to pester Diana. Demons. Witches. And especially vampires. All of who want to get their hands on this book and she doesn’t know why. The book has apparently been missing for centuries and she has been the only one who has been able to recall it.

Diana starts being pursued by a tall, dark and excessively handsome vampire named Matthew, which causes some concern for her friends and family due to the dark history between the two species of creatures. However, something is different about this vampire and Diana doesn’t feel threatened by him, in fact, he seems to want to help her. Diana cautiously enters into his confidence after some of her own kind turn on her and something more than friendship begins to develop between the two of them. Relationships between creatures of different species are forbidden but as the two fall for each other.  Now the congregation of creatures is after them and the book that Diana found. The two of them now must try and unravel the mystery surrounding Diana’s past, her heritage and the book that could be the key to the future of all the creatures.

Sounds like a really great concept right? That’s because it is but I have to admit the idea was not executed as well as I was hoping. The writing goes on tangents and isn’t very organized. This writing style was also confirmed to me when I attempted to read the second book in the series, Shadow of Nightwhich I could not finish as it was a disorganized mess. An editor clearly had a heavier hand in the completion of this novel making it readable and thank goodness, as this concept could have been completely ruined.

Here is where I commit my biggest atrocity and it pains me to say this… but… THE TV SHOW WAS BETTER! There I said it. And when I say better, I mean a lot better. Like infinitely better. The show took this great idea that the author had and polished it up and made it all shiny and awesome. I have no regrets because it’s true. I like the character of Diana more in the TV series as she seems stronger and more independent and the love story that develops between her and Matthew is an intense slow burner that felt realistic and was a pleasure to watch. The Matthew in the books is just too perfect and I found myself rolling my eyes with the romance that developed in the book.

Needless to say, I will not be pursuing the books series further. I will, however, continue to watch the TV series as I anxiously await the return of the second season. If you find the plot of this book intriguing and you want something smart and intelligently done, I would recommend the TV show.  This book wasn’t terrible but it just didn’t compare to the organized and streamlined show that came after it.