|Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
4 out of 5 stars
BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman – craftsman, widower, and father of Snow. SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished – exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird. When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart. Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi’s place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation. (Blurb from Goodreads)
I really liked this one. My advice if you read it though is to not treat it like a Snow White re-telling as the blurb of the book describes. There definitely are some elements influenced by Snow White, but if you waste too much time thinking about the comparison, you’ll miss all the good aspects of this one.
I got very invested in Boy, who escapes life with her abusive father in New York to live in Flax Hill, Massachusetts. She eventually marries the widowed jewelry maker Arturo Whitman. She is not desperately in love, but Arturo’s daughter Snow is so endearing. A few months into her marriage though, a secret comes out that has Boy sending Snow away from them to live with Arturo’s sister.
This is a good book if you like lyrical language that still sounds realistic. The two dual protagonists (one is Boy, to say or explain who the other one is would ruin a bit of the surprise) both have voices that felt genuine to me. Boy, especially. I haven’t read an opening of a novel that got hooked me right away in a while so I was so happy when I picked this up at random at the bookstore and bought it right away.
“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy…”
I do think the novel loses steam in the second half. And there is a second twist to the novel that takes place right at the end that has very little impact. Overall, I think the ending of the novel is the weakest part of the book.
Still, I breezed through this book. It felt like a great story paired with great writing. Both protagonists felt just complicated enough without any kind of overdramatic or tortured soul-type of over-exaggeration. I’d read a short story by Oyeyemi that was just as good so she’ll definitely be an author I revisit.