When We Were Birds

When We Were Birds

Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Mesmerising, mythic and timeless - the most unmissable debut novel of 2022 - for fans of Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison and Monique Roffey

Darwin is a down-on-his-luck gravedigger, newly arrived in the Trinidadian city of Port Angeles to seek his fortune, young and beautiful and lost. Estranged from his mother and the Rastafari faith she taught him, he is convinced that the father he never met may be waiting for him somewhere amid these bustling streets.

Meanwhile in an old house on a hill, where the city meets the rainforest, Yejide's mother is dying. And she is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: the power to talk to the dead. The women of Yejide's family are human but also not - descended from corbeau, the black birds that fly east at sunset, taking with them the souls of the dead.

Darwin and Yejide both have something that the other needs. Their destinies are intertwined, and they will find one another in the sprawling, ancient cemetery at the heart of the island, where trouble is brewing...

Rich with magic and wisdom, When We Were Birds is an exuberant, incantatory masterpiece that conjures and mesmerises on every line. Ayanna Lloyd Banwo weaves an unforgettable story of loss and renewal, darkness and light; a triumphant reckoning with a grief that runs back generations and a defiant, joyful affirmation of hope.


'Exceptional. 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' Jacob Ross, author of Black Rain Falling

'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, author of The Silence of the Girls

'Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is a rising literary star from a region which gave the world three Nobel Laureates in literature. She conjures old magic and yet she is a strong, new voice' Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch

© Ayanna Lloyd Banwo 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Reviews

  • This magical tale of a Trinidadian gravedigger searching for a father he never met proves we should believe the hype
    Stella, Sunday Telegraph

About the author

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is a writer from Trinidad & Tobago. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she is now a Creative and Critical Writing PhD candidate. Her work has been published in Moko Magazine, Small Axe and PREE, among others, and shortlisted for Small Axe Literary Competition and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. When We Were Birds is her first novel; she is now working on her second which will be published by Hamish Hamilton in 2025. Ayanna lives with her husband in London.
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