Saturday, March 15, 2014
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
I received a digital review copy of this fascinating novel and will admit to being unable to put it down for about a week. The opening line is, “Nobody ever warned me about mirrors so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.” Boy Novak is a teenager who has just fled from her abusive father when the narrative opens. She lands in a small Massachusetts town where she meets and eventually marries a widower named Arturo who has a daughter named Snow. Didn’t take much for THIS intelligent reader to assume that a character named Bird would be forthcoming. Sure enough, Bird is the name that Boy gives to the daughter she and Arturo have. But the novel is much, much more complex than this simple synopsis suggests. It is full of magical realism details and borrow heavily from fairy tales, especially Snow White. It tackles race and what qualified as “passing” in the late fifties and early sixties. It unmasks gender issues. Helen Oyeyemi is gifted, and this complex novel left me wanting to have a reading buddy to dissect its hall of mirrors with as soon as I put the book down.