Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi


Things are not what they appear to be, is the message of this story.  Boy, a teenage girl (actually!), runs away from her abusive father and finds a new life in a small town in New England.  In this town of craftsmen and artists, she falls into a relationship with a jewelry designer whose family has secrets that she only discovers only after they have impacted her very personally.  But she also lives to discover that her own family has secrets as well.

The story, taken at face value, is somewhat fantastical and remote, bordering on the bizarre.  Some scenes are actually briefly disturbing.  However, I think there is a lot of symbolism here.  The story really is, in my mind, a story of rebellion – rebellion against evil, against racial prejudice, against gender stereotyping, even against what is expected based on general physical appearance.  There is recurring mention of mirrors and what is or is not seen in them, which echoes this theme.  In this, the book has great value.

Unfortunately, though, while the message is important, the delivery is somewhat off.  Because of the mystical quality of the story, there is a distance between the writer and the characters, as if even the writer doesn’t love her own characters. I also found choppiness in the writing that lead to confusion in the actual details of the story.  In changing the voice, which I usually love, the author skips over details that tell the story, and it takes too long and, honestly, too much work to connect the dots.

So while I did love the message of this book, the delivery could have been tighter.

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