Part One deals with Boy, daughter of a New York ratcatcher, who, in 1953, gets fed up with being beaten by her parent and runs away from home to the New England town of Flax Hill. Here she meets Arturo, Julia's widower, and his impossibly beautiful blonde daughter Snow.
Part Two moves forward in time to deal with Bird, Boy's daughter, who is trying to make sense of her strange family, in particular her estranged step-sister Snow.
Part Three returns to consider the story from the perspective of Boy.
People look in mirrors but can't see themselves. Instead they see an infinity of themselves, or other people, or themselves in the past, or the future. The theme of skin colour and the identity it offers is explored, as is the theme of sexuality. Boy is a girl. Is Snow Snow White, and if she is does that make Boy a wicked stepmother? And how does it affect your life to be irresistibly gorgeous?
Oyeyemi writes some great lines:
- “Insects dropped onto my shoulders tentatively, as if wondering whether we’d met before.” (1.2)
- “One of those women who are corpselike until a man walks into the room, after which point they become irresistibly vivacious.” (1.2)
- “There's something about being chased by a big strong man with yellowish eyes that makes you feel like an antelope in a bad situation.” (1.3)
- “A single shift was like a long day out in dry rain.” (1.4)
- “If you're not afraid of a real night out, hit the town with guys who just got out of jail.” (1.6)
- “It seems that grown-ups just never stop interfering with each other.” (2.1)
- “Grammy Olivia's tone of voice offers you ten seconds to do as she says or the rest of your life to be sincerely sorry that you didn't.” (2.2)
- “Dad drives and Mrs Chen drives but Aunt Mia just gets behind the wheel and hopes it's another of her lucky days.” (2.3)
- “I began to know what dolls know. It felt like I'd been discarded for another toy that was better, more lifelike.” (2.3)
- “Capture all hearts and let none go free, is that the way she wants it?” (3.1)
- “The first coffee of the morning is never, ever, ready quickly enough.” (3.1)
This is a strange book with many layers and I feel I have but scratched the surface. February 2019; 308 pages