Mesmerising, mythic and timeless – the most unmissable debut novel of 2022 – for fans of Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison and Monique Roffey
‘Exceptional’ Jacob Ross
‘Exquisite’ Avni Doshi
‘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
‘It’s a knockout, and Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is a star. I want to read everything she writes’ Niven Govinden
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 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.