The Week in Books #50

4/12 Done ✅

Booooks. I’ve been really looking forward to reading this particular stack! Lots of titles I’ve been eyeing for ages and a good (I think) diverse selection of writers. Also there’s 12 instead of 10 because most of them are average or on the shorter side in length, and also also I am having a hard time picking just 10 at a time when there are so many books I want to read. Right? Also also also the covers are all so pretty. Ok I’ll stop now.

1. Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. This is a beautiful book about twin sisters that drift apart after experiencing a traumatic event (“the bad thing.”) Butter Honey Pig Bread was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize this year but surprisingly when I picked it up there were only 16 reviews of it on Goodreads (now it’s at 49, still criminally low). This book is filled with delicious culinary passages, spontaneous love, life in multiple cities across Nigeria, Canada, France and the UK, and a touch of magic. I’m a pretty big fan of most stuff Arsenal puts out and this was no exception.

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.

Arsenal Pulp Press.

2. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim. Flu pandemic taking over the United States mixed with time travel? Yes please! This book is described as a story about love tested by time, but what it’s really about is the immigrant experience. Polly agrees to travel to the future to work for a corporation in exchange for them covering the cost of her boyfriends life saving medical intervention. Things get mixed up and she discovers she is 5 years further into the future than anticipated, can’t find anyone she knows, and is indebted to the corporation to the tune of 44 months of hard labour. Packed into labour camps with other bonded workers she struggles to find her way out and back to Frank in a future America that she doesn’t recognize. I really enjoyed it.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan. Time travel has been invented; if she signs up for a one-way trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a terrifying new world to find Frank, to discover if he is alive, and to see if their love has endured.

Penguin Randomhouse.

3. Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor. I listened to the audiobook of the first Binti novella several years ago and was happy to see it collected with the rest of the trilogy (plus a bonus story) in this print copy. It has real Lilith’s Brood vibes! The whole last part is a real rollercoaster. I really liked all the different alien species and various abilities Binti develops. Satisfying conclusion, especially after all the up and down of the last instalment. Cool world building too. Thumbs up!

In her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.

But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.

There is more to the history of the Medusae–and their war with the Khoush–than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.

Google books.

Today I’m digging into The Great Believers, looking forward to another week of staying home as per Bonnie Henry’s orders… no play dates, no gathering outside, no visitors to our home… just quiet reading and watching the rain. Not too shabby. Hope everyone is staying safe! 🖤

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