Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Man... I wanted to love this book so hard. The cover (look at that cover!) and the description convinced me that I would love this book without question. A modern re-telling of Snow White? A story about a family "passing" as white for generations? Sign me up! I even purchased it for a friend before I read it... just KNOWING that she would love it and I'd be hopping right onboard that train to WhoNeedsSleepImReadingville with her. Except... newp. While I appreciated the writing and Oyeyemi's use of magical realism (reminiscent of Garcia Marquez... but without his ability to bring believability to the magic and having it contribute to the larger story), the book just fell flat for me. I couldn't understand the motivations of any of the characters and, due to that, they ended up seeming one-dimensional to me. Each action a character took just felt to me like they did it because the author told them to... not that the author wrote about them doing this because that's what the character did.
I shouldn't complain. I've read some incredible, life-changing books lately. I had a feeling it was too good to last. And while I wouldn't tell someone NOT to read this book, it was definitely one I kind of wish I hadn't bothered to buy in hardcover. At least I bought it from my local indie and not Amazon. Silver linings, yo!
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.
A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold. Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.