Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Boy, Snow, Bird - Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird
Title: Boy, Snow, Bird
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Publication Date: 3/6/14
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
How I Found It: Can't remember
Date Completed: 5/1/15

Summary: Mid-century runaway Boy, who happens to be a girl, leaves New York for a small town upstate. She becomes a new wife and stepmother to Snow. When she gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, a family secret is revealed.

What I Thought: However I came across this book, and I cannot remember exactly how that was now, I was under the impression it was a reimagining of Snow White. And, in some subtle ways, I suppose it is. A few details from the fairy tale linger throughout, but the story itself holds little resemblance. 

I have to admit: I struggled through this book. I really wanted to love it. I wanted it to be magical and to sweep me up with rich storytelling and imaginative twists. The overall feeling I got, however, was that of being duped. The book simply was not what I was expecting. I hardly feel right "punishing" it for that, but I have never been a big fan of the bait and switch. Of course, Oyeyemi was not even the one doing the baiting, so it seems unfair to her as well for me to dislike the book.

And yet....I just did not like it. 

None of the characters felt very likable to me and I found the story confusing at times. The "big twists" felt odd and unnatural. In some ways, it felt like Oyeyemi was telling several separate stories at once and could not decide which she wanted to stand in the forefront. The result, which could have been a pleasant mix of style and genres, instead felt jumbled. 

Part of my struggle certainly comes from the disambiguation about whether the book is fantasy or regular fiction. I'm perfectly happy to have magic in my books, but if an author wants to use it, I want it to be embraced, rather than hidden or subtly implied. If your characters have unique powers or abilities or traits - tell me about them! The women in this book never seemed quite able to determine their own status, making it seem as though Oyeyemi could not determine it either. 

I still just feel oddly about the book. I still want to like it, even after struggling through and feeling dissatisfied. I still want to be a fan of Oyeyemi's unique approach and deft handling of some tough topics. Maybe I even just want to like it to support her as an author; there are not enough female minority authors being celebrated. In the end, though, I have to admit that this book was not for me.

Quote I Loved: "Restraint is classier."

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Doubtful

A Reduced Review: Despite my desire to love this book and find it magical, I never could quite connect with it or enjoy its unique style and plot. 

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