Author: Helen Oyeyemi, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction. Magical Realism. Re-told Fairy Tales. Racial Issues. Coming of Age.
Other Details: Hardback. 308 pages.
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. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
This was an amazing novel that includes the elements of magical realism that I have come to expect from Helen Oyeyemi and yet she also explores themes of identity, gender, love and motherhood as well as addressing racial issues in mid-20th century USA. It is an intelligent, multi-layered novel that held a number of surprises. One to avoid spoilers for if you plan to read.
As the title suggests there is an element of fairy tale re-telling, specifically Snow White and Cinderella along with observations on the tropes of the wicked step-mother and magical mirrors. An astonishing novel that confirmed for me that Helen Oyeyemi has matured into an important writer capable of integrating social issues alongside myth and fairy tales into her narrative. My copy was originally from the library but I quickly bought my own copy as it is a novel I want on my shelf.