When We Were Birds: A Novel (Hardcover)

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When We Were Birds: A Novel (Hardcover)

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A mythic love story set in Trinidad, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo's radiant debut introduces two unforgettable outsiders brought together by their connection with the dead.

"Heartwarming and heartbreaking, fantastical and familiar, with characters that burrow their way into your heart and mind . . .  [When We Were Birds] is glorious."--ROBERT JONES JR., New York Times bestselling author of THE PROPHETS


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 masterwork of lush imagination and exuberant storytelling, When We Were Birds is a spellbinding and hopeful novel about inheritance, loss, and love's seismic power to heal.
AYANNA LLOYD BANWO is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago. Her work has been published in The Caribbean Writer, Moko Magazine, Small Axe, POUi, Pree, Callaloo, and Anomaly. She is a graduate of the M.A. in Creative Writing program from the University of East Anglia and is now a postgraduate researcher in Creative-Critical Writing at UEA. When We Were Birds is her first novel.
Product Details ISBN: 9780385547260
ISBN-10: 0385547269
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: March 15th, 2022
Pages: 304
Language: English
“Ayanna Lloyd Banwo's When We Were Birds is crafted from the very essence of memory, the long memory, which can only be drawn from the mind and translated into the written word by someone with Banwo's lyrical mastery. Heartwarming and heartbreaking, fantastical and familiar, with characters that burrow their way into your heart and mind with their tragedies and triumphs, When We Were Birds more than sings, more than beams. It is the kind of story that makes you want to spread your arms open wide,  embrace the sky, and take flight in your own little way. It is glorious.”—Robert Jones, Jr., New York Times bestselling author of The Prophets

"Combining the richness of myth with razor-sharp observation of contemporary life, When We Were Birds marks the emergence of a distinctive and powerful voice."—Pat Barker, Booker Prize-winning author of Women of Troy

"Uplifting, engaging, expansive: this was just the book I needed. In a voice infused with the rhythms of Trinidad and Tobago, Banwo has crafted the perfect love story, one that moves with deftness between the furies of urban poverty and the gentle infinities of the afterlife. The hard-won peace and redemptive love in this story are real, and something we need more of in the world."—Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors

“Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s voice is haunting, and When We Were Birds is a novel of exquisite detail that opens up the liminal space between folklore and the world we inhabit.”—Avni Doshi, author of Burnt Sugar

"Ayanna Lloyd Banwo comes from a lineage of high Caribbean Lit and it shows. This is an impressive debut about love, family, ancestry, the dead and the living.  Read this book for its magic and realism too, for its deft weaving together of lives from a city with a huge cemetery at its centre, where the dead lie restless and sometimes loosen from their graves. Ayanna Lloyd Banwo conjours old magic and yet she is a strong, new voice."—Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch

"A love story, a ghost story and a coming-of-age story, all masterfully woven into one. I loved it."—Claire Adam, author of The Golden Child

"I love this book: the originality of its premise, the power and beauty of its prose; the depth of its explorations of what it means to love and be loved. When We Were Birds is about the silver cord of memory and blood, and history that bind a family of women even after death. An exceptional novel that delivers on its promise."—Jacob Ross, author of The Bone Readers