I’ve been on an African kick lately, as has the publishing industry, apparently. From Americanah to Half of a Yellow Sun to We Need New Names To TWhen The Crocodile Eats The Sun, it’s a surprising accumulation of literary excellence. And the variety of voice and subjects is impressive. Harrowing lives under Robert Mugabe. The transition from mostly-black Nigeria/Zimbabwe to minority-black America. The trials of the Biafran civil war. And now something completely different, Helen Oyeyemi’s tale of three girls with improbable names growing up in rural New England.
I can’t tell much about the plot of Boy, Snow, Bird without spoiling the story. I can only assure you that you’re in for a set of twists as startling and unexpected as any you’ve experienced in any book, any time.
We meet “Boy” as a child living with an abusive father in Manhattan, a man who makes his living catching rats. She runs away and ends up in Flax Hill, MA, where the rest of the improbable, but totally believable, action takes place.
I can talk of mirrors without giving the plot away. All three characters have issues about when and if they see their reflections. Sometimes they see themselves in fragments. Sometimes not at all. You might think I’m describing a paranormal novel, and I suppose there’s an element of that. However, the most important aspect is tied to identity and sense of self, which is to my mind the most important theme of the whole book. And it’s a wrenching and saddening and exhilarating experience to follow these characters through their challenges.
Again, I can’t say much more without giving too much away, so I’ll let it lie except to encourage you to open, read, discuss, debate this fine, fine piece of writing.