I feel like Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird has been one of those books on the back of my mind for a while now. I wanted to read it, even though I didn’t really know what it was about. I found a copy on Book Outlet a while ago, and this month, I finally got around tor reading it.
In 1953, twenty-year-old Boy Novak runs away from New York, and her abusive father, and finds herself in rural Massachusetts. There, she creates a new life for herself. She marries a local widower, and becomes stepmother to his adored daughter, Snow. Boy never imagined herself becoming a wicked stepmother, but she can’t shake the feeling as she becomes more a part of Snow’s life. But when Boy gives birth to a daughter, Bird, her husband’s family is exposed as light-skinned African Americans, passing for white in a close-knit town. As they grow apart, Boy, Snow, and Bird have to face questions of their past, and confront the mysterious power of mirrors and how much truth they really show.
Boy, Snow, Bird is an entirely unique work of fiction. It combines issues rooted in reality and history – abusive parents, race relations, feminism in the 1950s – with the hint of a fairy tale. It’s almost magical realism. That said, something about this book just didn’t work for me. I had trouble connecting with the characters – it was almost as if they were kept at a distance from the reader just as much as from each other. And I if I can’t connect with any of the characters, I have trouble investing in the story. While I liked a lot of the ideas behind this book, there was just something a little bit off in their execution, at least for me. I wanted to like this book. But it just didn’t click.
Boy, Snow, Bird was unlike anything I’ve read before. The combination of elements was interesting, and overall, I’m glad I read it. I struggled rating this one, because I think it’s somewhere between three and four stars for me: I’ll give it a three and a half. I didn’t love it, but I did like it. And I enjoyed reading something that was a bit outside my comfort zone. I am definitely planning on looking into Helen Oyeyemi’s other books.
If you’ve read Boy, Snow, Bird, I would love to hear your thoughts!