Boy, Snow, Bird

Boy, Snow, Bird

Book - 2014
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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 lightskinned 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.
Publisher: Toronto, Ont. : Hamish Hamilton, c2014
ISBN: 9780143187431
Branch Call Number: OYE
Characteristics: 308 p. ;,21 cm

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From Library Staff

One of 2014's most buzzed about book. Expect to see Oyeyemi's dreamy tale on award lists this year.


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DorisWaggoner
Jul 30, 2017

Maybe I'm not up on my fairytales, but except for Snow's name and complexion, which there seem to be ultimate doubts about, the connection is a bit loose for me. There's not much fairytale sparkle here, in fact not much sparkle at all. Why Boy takes until she's 20 to leave the kind of abuse her father subjects her to is also beyond me. The birth of Boy and Arturo's baby, whom Snow, at 6, gets to name Bird, precipitates a family crisis, which ends in Snow being sent to live with an aunt and uncle. Later the two sisters find each other. So much in this novel makes no sense, the ending among them. Yet the writing, as has been mentioned, is wonderful. But not wonderful enough, I think, to make me read more of Ms. Oyeyemi's work. From their descriptions, all have goth elements in them which I fear I'm just too old to appreciate. "Frankenstein" was great when I was in college, but that was 50+ years ago, and I don't look good in black. I read Ms. Oyeyemi's interview in the Guardian when she published another book, and she has a "thing" about cities. They have to "feel right" for her to live there. Having moved a lot, I agree with that. I always moved for job reasons. I guess her prize money allows her to spend a few months her and another few months there until she finds the city that suits her for the moment. That's interesting. It also means that the characters in Boy, Snow, Bird, aren't really autobiographical, as they stick to one spot as long as they can. Except the immigrants, who have reasons we, in our own time, can understand.

EvaELPL Jun 28, 2017

I can't say enough about the dream-like, uniquely striking way that Helen Oyeyemi writes. This book takes a familiar fairytale framework -- the evil stepmother -- and holds it up to a distorted funhouse mirror. Deftly handling race, gender, motherhood, class, and more, this story wouldn't work in the hands of a less skilled author. Oyeyemi not only weaves every thread together masterfully, but in Boy she breathes a marvelous life and depth into an otherwise one-dimensional character trope.

b
becker
May 17, 2017

It's so difficult to describe my experience with this book. This rather absurd story starts out fairly strong but the second half of the book leans toward bizarre. It takes a dramatic turn at the end which was rather jolting and I didn't think it added to the story at all. Despite the messy story line, the writing is really solid. If you like something unique and speculative, you may really enjoy this....plenty of other people have.

I was immediately drawn into the dream-like quality of Oyeyemi's writing. This many layered, complex story is one I'll be mulling over long after I've returned it to the library.
~Alexa

r
rebmartin31
Jun 01, 2016

Oyeyemi does an amazing job in this book of somehow making you share Boy's dislike and distrust of Snow. I don't know how she does it, because by all accounts it shouldn't make sense. Boy was quite cruel in sending Snow away, and Snow doesn't seem like such a bad person. I think Boy just feels that Snow is a little fake, and wants to separate Snow from the spoiling influence of the grandmothers. In any event, it is pure witchcraft. The prose is beautiful, one of the most astonishing pieces of prose writing I've come across recently. I don't know if I 100% appreciated some of the more supernatural/fairytale elements of the story, and I had issues with some of the characters, and, yes, the ending is a bit abrupt, but I loved Oyeyemi's writing so much that it doesn't matter.

LPL_KateG Mar 15, 2016

Oyeyemi is a captivating writer. She's spooky without being over-the-top frightening, and her imagery really sticks with you. I did not read this as a retelling of Snow White, and therefore really enjoyed it. (In other words, if you're specifically seeking a retelling, this might not be the one.)

j
jacksonsgf
Aug 01, 2015

One of the most well written books I've ever read. Covers race, motherhood, abuse, and many other issues in such an eloquent way.

LAYNE_A Apr 29, 2015

Weird and beautiful story about surfaces and the values we place on them. There's a touch of dark fantasy in Oyeyemi's writing. Yes, there are some possibly problematic twists and underdeveloped characters, but they still work with the theme: what is beauty? What is truth? And what is more important?

t
tesstlc
Apr 06, 2015

Generally I felt that the book was well-written, but somehow didn't find myself especially interested - I stopped reading it about half way through after the perspective switched.
I didn't even know the main character was named Boy until I already felt like I knew who she was - this was confusing - I mean, why give a character such an unusual and unattractive name with no explanation and why wouldn't she call herself something else, especially after fleeing her father?
Also, I couldn't get a good feel for the story because I couldn't tell what era it was set in - contemporary or in the past. I can see from reviews now that it's supposed to be the 50s 60s but I didn't find that obvious while reading. I just felt lost.
As far as the Snow White references, I didn't see it, didn't know about that while I was reading and it wouldn't have drawn me to the book anyway. In fact, I still don't see much similarity to Snow White - there is a step mother and there is a girl named Snow and that's about it.
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, but I might read something else by the same author.

b
brangwinn
Mar 22, 2015

Oyeyemi has created a book that combines reality with fairy tales and at times, they clash and at times they meld together. It is difficult to discuss this book without giving away key elements of the novel. An abusive parent forces Boy to flee New York City for the small town of Flax Hill in New England. Read with an open mind being aware continually that truth shifts and nothing is as it seems. This original story will stay will you after you’ve read it, for you’ll be thinking of all the threads that ravel in this story of very original characters

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nthnlwly
Jul 07, 2015

The first coffee of the morning is never, ever, ready quickly enough. You die before it’s ready and then your ghost pours the resurrection potion out of the moka pot.

baretta Oct 02, 2014

We live in a little suburb called Twelve Bridges....People don't make too much money around here, but what comes with that is a different definition of what it means to be well-off. You're chairman of the board if you need twelve dollars a week and you make twelve dollars a week. If you've also got someone within ten minutes' walk who can make you laugh and someone else within a five-minute walk who can help you mourn, you're a millionaire. If on top all that you've got a buddy or three who'll feed you delicious things and paint you pictures and dance with you, and another friend who'll watch your kids so you can go out dancing...that's the billionaire lifestyle.

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