BOY, SNOW, BIRD by Helen Oyeyemi is one of the most anticipated books of 2014. Oyeyemi is the archetype of young authors today. At least, that’s what I hear.
I’m no fan of science fiction novels or any sort of fantasy. I often come across novels that have that sense of fantasy that I call fanciful. I almost always pass on reading them. So when I read what this novel was about, I took pause. Really, a retelling of the Snow White tale? Hm.
The girl named “Boy” lives with her abusive father in the not-so-nice part of Manhatten. It’s 1940’s. The father makes a living by catching rats. Yes, you heard that right. He catches rats for a living. And he’s meaner than a snake. Pay attention to this first part of the novel. I had to return to it in order to understand the last part of the story. Some of the scenes with the rats were disturbing for me. But keep going. Boy does escape this hideous lifestyle.
Boy ends up in a small town in New England that hosts artisans. And she begins to fit in. She is even lucky enough to get a job working part time at the local bookstore. This is when I began getting really interested. And then the story gets raised up a notch when she marries a man who is widowed with a beautiful young daughter named Snow. Thus, the tag “wicked step-mother” comes to mind.
Oyeyemi is so young to deal with such tough, deep issues. Race relations, self-image, small town angst, and mothers being jealous of their children. Where does this wisdom come from? Wherever it comes from, you can be sure that it rings true.
Helen Oyeyemi brings us a very special tale that is both enchanging and strange. Unique and troubling. Full of characters who will stay with you long after you read the last page. Reading this kind of novel will make you a better reader. It’s quite moving and written with quiet but dazzling prose.
There are already spoilers on the dust jacket of BOY, SNOW, BIRD. I think they have told way too much of the story. But do delve into this novel to do more than find out what happens. Read to learn. I think this book is going to be talked about for some time to come. And I already know Helen Oyeyemi is a young author to watch, and watch, and watch.
Many, many thanks go out to Riverhead books! They reached out with this book knowing it would be a hit. And what a lovely cover.