[Review] Boy, Snow, Bird - Helen Oyeyemi

Title of Book: Boy, Snow, Bird
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Year: 2015
Language: English
Format: paperback
Pages: 316

The widely acclaimed novel that brilliantly recasts the Snow White fairy tale as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.
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, exposes the Whitman family secret. 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.


I honestly don’t know where to start with this book. I’ll try anyway. Boy, Snow, Bird is about Boy Novak, a girl who ran away from her home in New York to a small town called Flax Hill. There, she builds a new life and she met a man named Arturo Whitman. Long story short, they became closer and got married. Arturo already has a daughter, named Snow, from his previous marriage. After a while, Boy had a daughter, named Bird, with Arturo. With the birth of Bird, the Whitman family secret was out in the open. Then things start getting tense to the point that Boy sent Snow away to live with her aunt. That’s basically the plot of this book. It sounds easy, isn’t it? Like it’s one of those books that you can fly through. Well, it’s not. At least not in my experience.
Based on my explanation earlier, you can suspect that this book would talk about abuse or child abuse. It starts off as an abuse survivor tale. But then the story just floats there until I got to the part where I discovered the Whitman’s family secret. The store then goes to a different direction which in my opinion is also an important issue to talk about. Unfortunately, it isn’t quiet there. It feels like there’s something missing, or something could be added to the book. The ending also doesn’t help. It gives no conclusion whatsoever. All it does is giving me more questions.
I’m also not a fan of the writing. It’s confusing and feels all over the place for me. I know it has stream of consciousness narrative style so it can jump here and there all the time because it’s supposed to mimic the thought process of the characters. I don’t like being in Boy or Bird’s head. It’s just confusing.
As for the Snow White retelling, I still don’t understand why Snow White. In terms of retelling, Boy, Snow, Bird is loosely based on Snow White. It could be because of the allusion to vanity or how the mirror often questions the characters’ identity. But apart from the mirror symbolism and many uses of the number seven (I suspect as a reference to the seven dwarfs), this book is a story of its own. It doesn’t have to be called a retelling.
All in all, I don’t think this book is for me. I’ve seen some praise and people giving good reviews for this book. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Will I read Oyeyemi’s other books? I’m not sure. I get a sense that she’s an ambitious writer and it can be a good thing, but I’m not ready for that yet.

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