The extraordinary bestselling novel from the acclaimed writer whose previous book, Martin John, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and whose debut, Malarky, won the Amazon First Novel Award.
"My name is Bina and I'm a very busy woman. That's Bye-na, not Beena. I don't know who Beena is, but I expect she's having a happy life. I don't know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you've come all this way here to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I'm here to warn you ..."
So begins this "novel in warnings"--an unforgettable tour de force in the voice of an ordinary-extraordinary woman who has simply had enough. Through the character of Bina, who is writing out her story on the backs of discarded envelopes, Anakana Schofield filters a complex moral universe filled with humour and sadness, love and rage, and the consolations, obligations and mysteries of lifelong friendship. A work of great power, skill, and transformative empathy from a unique and astonishing writer.
"Anakana Schofield's Bina is a fiction of the rarest and darkest kind, a work whose pleasures must be taken measure for measure with its pains. Few writers operate the scales of justice with more precision, and Schofield is no less exacting in what she chooses to weigh. The novel's themes--male violence, the nature of moral courage, the contemporary problems of truth and individuality, the status of the female voice--could hardly be more timely or germane. Schofield's sense of injustice is unblinking and without illusion, yet her writing is so vivacious, so full of interest and lust for life: she is the most compassionate of storytellers, wearing the guise of the blackest comedian." --Rachel Cusk, Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Outline and Transit
"Intimate, disarming, and riotous, Bina is a searing exploration of one woman's soul that unwinds like a reluctant confession. Whether Bina is rescuing a ne'er-do-well from a ditch, taking a hammer to a plane or considering the dark request of her best friend, Schofield has created a compelling, practical everywoman--someone who has had enough and is ready to make a spectacle." --Eden Robinson, Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Son of a Trickster and Monkey Beach
"Insightful. Inventive. Hilarious. Genius." --Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, winner of the Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction, and The Lesser Bohemians, winner of the James Tait Memorial Prize
About the author
- Winner, Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award
- Short-listed, Goldsmiths Book Prize
ANAKANA SCHOFIELD is the author of the acclaimed, Giller Prize-shortlisted novel Martin John (2015), which was also a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize in the UK, a New York Times Editors' Choice, and named a best book of the year by the Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail, National Post, Sunday Business Post, Toronto Star, and The Irish Times, among others. Her debut novel Malarky (2012) won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in the United States, and was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her writing and reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Globe and Mail, National Post, London Review of Books blog, and The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Excerpt: Bina: A Novel in Warnings (by (author) Anakana Schofield)
I always found fellas very difficult. I never got tangled up in them for that reason. I put my head down and lived a reasonable life. Or rather once I put the head down, I lived a reasonable life.
Women are no easier. So don’t be fooled thinking otherwise.
They are all awful, awful, awful.
All humans are awful.
All of us are awful.
Be very suspicious.
Stick to cats or carp.
Goats are less trouble than humans.
He’s mad as a goat, they’ll say. Yet I never met a goat as mad as a man.
Goats never caused me mounds of grief.
Goats never sat like a pile of rank mush in my kitchen.
Worse thing they ever did was eat something they couldn’t digest, yet you’d no more go down their throat after it. You leave them be. You let them decide, do you want to live or die? Do you want to carry on or take a left turn?
A man though, he could get into your kidneys and irritate them & you in a very special way. It’s why women are up in the night to go to the toilet as they age. They are widdling the confused strain of anger gathered up in there all day. I’ve no explanation as to why men are up piddling all night too, except perhaps it’s God’s subtle way of tormenting them. He goes straight for the pipe does our Saviour.
Out of the toilet quick, Bina!
Before I’m distracted.
I’m an awful woman for distraction.
Curiosity was my downfall.
You’ll see yet.
But let us return to the goats.
Not demanding, goats.
Unless they sneak out.
Then and even then, and only then, it’s the humans cause a big fuss. The goats don’t much mind the humans; they carry on doing what they do, a simple desire to eat briars unimpeded. Armoured tongues. Clipping nibbles. Head in. Chomp crunch. Down. Down. You could be dying on the ground and a goat would eat all the way around you, and not take a lick or a bare sniff at you. He’d follow the feed.
Not the humans! Oh no, big fuss when goats escape. They’re out on the road! Mad. Arms waving. Phones ringing. Thumb-stabbing slipped texts to the wrong farmer. They raise their voices. They’ll shout at any man who’ll hear. Any ear. Or woman. And amid shrieking carnival and lifeboat dispatch you’d wonder wherever did they think goats were before we put them into fields and sheds? Where do they think the wild goats are? The goats just keep on eating and buck about. They don’t mind your trumpet or your texts.
I’ve had to give up my goats on account of the humans. Let me be clear on that, it wasn’t the other way round. I haven’t given up my goats for any reason aside from Eddie. Don’t listen when they say oh it’s her age or her health or the diabetes or she needs to lose weight. I haven’t the diabetes. It’s Joanie, God rest her, who had the diabetes. None of us knew. She kept it quiet and now she’s dead and that’s what happens when you keep things quiet. Though I do believe in keeping some things quiet. Phil had it too, the diabetes.
I am as strong as steel. Unbendable Bina. It’s just the humans are doing me in. Not the goats, not the diabetes. I don’t even eat cakes. If I start eating cakes, it’s because they drove me to it. Eddie would drive you to eat cakes. I’m surprised I didn’t plunge my face down into a Victoria sponge, with him and now this other tall fella breaking my brain to crumb.
* * *
There has to be a plan. I’ll have to kill the cat if I’m to go. That’s a pity. For the best. Nice cat though. Except when it piddled all over the place early on. Including on my new pillows, because Eddie locked the poor craytur in my bedroom. Them’s the sort of stupid thing Eddies do.
I didn’t want it to get out, he said.
You locked him in my bedroom for two days and gave him no food because you didn’t want him to get out?
He didn’t get out tho’, he said.
He couldn’t get out! He was locked in!
That cat’s not dead, said he. As if there were some fear the cat would be dead if it lived a normal
It’s very hard to get run over when you are locked inside my bedroom.
Most cats die. Most cats let out die. They die on the road.
And he believes it. He holds fast. Plain, dry, seasoned oblivious. Smothered with fungal oblivion. He could live, die and rise again entirely oblivious that man. Every time the thought revisits me that I should have left him in that ditch. I am thinking it as I write this to you. I’m warning you not to lift men out of ditches and don’t trust the common declaration “all he needs is a bang on the head.” Eddie received a big bang on the head when he landed off his motorbike in my ditch and there is no evidence of it improving him. I don’t know how I didn’t take the cat and brain him with it. Except the poor creature had suffered enough. My pillows never recovered and the smell of cat piss still lingers. It’s a reminder. Heed your reminders. Your mistakes always come with reminders. Often there’s a smell of a reminder. Log it. Sniff it. Choke on it. Make your nose passport and border control. Let no one in.
Since Eddie’s gone, I’ve put items in his bed to remind myself he is gone. But I had to throw out the mattress, the pillows and sheets he’d slept on for years, because he was filthy anytime he lay down on them. You could never wash the smell of him away. I’ve one room stinks of cat’s piss and another of Eddie. I hesitated though, because according to my prophecy I thought the smell of him could, if I left it, serve as a warning. I’m happy to say I’m past needing a warning, which is why I am able to batter this out to yourselves. I’ve transcended.
I often wonder at the women who give birth to awful young fellas like Eddie. I think there’s a case to be heard for shoving the likes of Eddie back up and starting all over again. I believe in abortion since I met Eddie. It’s only a shame you can’t abort a 40-year-old.
* * *
I believe in obliteration. I believe in removing useless specimens from the planet. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m committed. You can only say it aloud if God has told you to do it. He hasn’t, but On My Oath if I were called I would serve. Likewise, I believe that the more useful amongst us should also have some choice about when we go. That is why I joined the Group when the Tall Man came to my door.
Eddie’s gone quiet now.
So we are waiting. That’s all I do now.
 See, Malarky: A Novel in Episodes.
 I wonder now if I hadn’t had the delay on needing to get a new mattress might I have saved Phil. Maybe, in the end, Eddie will have killed the pair of us without even trying.
“Anakana Schofield’s Bina is a fiction of the rarest and darkest kind, a work whose pleasures must be taken measure for measure with its pains. Few writers operate the scales of justice with more precision, and Schofield is no less exacting in what she chooses to weigh. The novel’s themes—male violence, the nature of moral courage, the contemporary problems of truth and individuality, the status of the female voice—could hardly be more timely or germane. Schofield’s sense of injustice is unblinking and without illusion, yet her writing is so vivacious, so full of interest and lust for life: she is the most compassionate of storytellers, wearing the guise of the blackest comedian.” —Rachel Cusk, Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Outline and Transit
“Intimate, disarming, and riotous, Bina is a searing exploration of one woman’s soul that unwinds like a reluctant confession. Whether Bina is rescuing a ne’er-do-well from a ditch, taking a hammer to a plane or considering the dark request of her best friend, Schofield has created a compelling, practical everywoman—someone who has had enough and is ready to make a spectacle.” —Eden Robinson, Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Son of a Trickster and Monkey Beach
“Insightful. Inventive. Hilarious. Genius.” —Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, winner of the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction
“Anakana Schofield’s new novel Bina zapped itself into my brain from the get-go and refuses to leave, or sit still, which is what you would expect from a book that chronicles a seventy-four-year-old woman who has had enough, is unafraid to tell everyone, and is struggling with grief and guilt over the loss of her best friend. I thought Malarky (its prequel) and Martin John (in the same universe) were both very good, but Bina is in a separate league. I’ve been recommending it to anyone who loved and admired Anna Burns’s Booker Prize winner Milkman.” —Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World
“Schofield pulls off such a virtuosic feat of voice that Bina’s utterances, by turns aphoristic and rambling, grief-soaked and mordantly funny, haul the reader through the book, as immersive as being trapped inside her rural kitchen with the kettle on. A masterwork that should cement Bina (and Schofield) as one of the great voices in recent fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Candid, abrasive, selectively compassionate, and intermittently forgetful, the homespun philosopher first glimpsed in Malarky . . . is a weathered cabinet chock full of revelations, opinions, maxims, and hard-earned wisdom for us, her presumed readers. . . . With her superbly realized and delightfully contradictory ‘practical woman’ at the centre of an artful tale, Vancouver’s Schofield never fails to captivate, entertain, and provoke. Maith thú!” —Toronto Star