I wish the back of the book hadn’t given away the turning point of the novel. But it did, and so I will, too: Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird follows our protagonist – Boy – as she flees the home of her ratcatcher father, marries a jeweller with a daughter, Snow (“white as snow”), has a baby – Bird – who is black. Her husband, Arturo, has been passing as white. That’s the first half of the story. The rest of the book is taken up with how this trifecta of Boy, Snow, Bird experiences the world, family and identity. Mixed up with the questions of what to do with her own sense of familial history and desire (what are the scales of secrets?).
I didn’t love the novel. I wasn’t taken with the quasi-mystery and fantastical tone. I didn’t particularly like Boy, and so found it hard to care about the complexities of being her. Maybe I’d have liked the book more narrated from Snow or Bird? Actually, to be honest, I stopped reading three quarters of the way through and so maybe there is a sudden shift in point of view that makes the whole thing that much better? I’ll never know (unless you tell me in the comments!), but I do know that it wasn’t the book for me. (Though if you take your reviews from the New York Times – it’s the book for many, many others).