When We Were Birds
When We Were Birds
Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
In the old house on a hill, where the city meets the rainforest, Yejide’s mother is dying. She is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: one St Bernard woman in every generation has the power to shepherd the city’s souls into the afterlife. But after years of suffering her mother’s neglect and bitterness, Yejide is looking for a way out.
Raised in the countryside by a devout Rastafarian mother, Darwin has always abided by the religious commandment not to interact with death. He has never been to a funeral, much less seen a dead body. But when the only job he can find is grave digging, he must betray the life his mother built for him in order to provide for them both. Newly shorn of his dreadlocks and his past, and determined to prove himself, Darwin finds himself adrift in a city electric with possibility and danger.
Yejide and Darwin will meet inside the gates of Fidelis, an ancient and sprawling cemetery, where the dead lie uneasy in their graves and a reckoning with fate beckons them both.
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: NPR, THE ECONOMIST
A Most Anticipated Book: Time, Harper's Bazaar, The Observer, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, Essence, Nylon, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy Business Insider, NBC, Bustle, LitHub, BookRiot, Ms. Magazine, and more...
"Mythic and captivating... Banwo roots the reader in [Trinidad's] traditions and rituals, in the sights and sounds and colors and smells of fruit vendors, fish vendors, street preachers and schoolchildren. In the glorious matriarchy by which lineage is upheld. The result is a depiction of ordinary life that's full and breathtaking." --New York Times Book Review
"[A] masterly debut novel. It announces an important new voice in fiction, at once grounded and mythic in its scope and carried by an incantatory prose style that recalls Arundhati Roy. . . Lloyd Banwo's literary gift lies in her capacity to transfigure [grief] - to conjure a cosmic landscape where the living coexist among the dead."-- The Observer (Top 10 Debut Novel of 2022)
"A thoroughly original and emotionally rich examination of love, grief and inheritance... When We Were Birds is full of life . . .The scenes it hosts are packed with drama, colour and tension, particularly in her gripping finale . . Her novel takes flight and soars."-- The Economist
" When We Were Birds is an ode to the idea that broken traditions can lead to beautiful new beginnings."-- Time Magazine
"What a great, fun, and complex book -- part love story, part ghost story, all beautiful -- and all the more impressive for being Ayanna Lloyd Banwo's debut!...I was so moved by this book and am sure you will be too "
-- Powell's Books (Best Books of 2022: Fiction)
"Lloyd Banwo conjures an aching sexual energy, places the lovers in deliciously paced jeopardy and takes the tale to an agreeably thundery climax . . .Lloyd Banwo has written a love letter for Trinidad, to remind all of us that yes, love is still very, very nice indeed."-- The Guardian
"A fantastic romance that is nothing short of epic." --Buzzfeed