Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Paraphrased from Goodreads
BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman: craftsman, widower, and father of Snow.
SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished, exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird.
When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart. Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi’s place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation.
[contains vague, minor spoilers]
I held off reviewing this book for a couple of weeks so I could collect my thoughts. There were a lot of things I liked about this book, but I also have several issues with it.
Things I liked: I enjoyed this book overall. I wanted to read it and enjoying reading it and it never felt like a chore to read. I liked the characters’ voices, even though I couldn’t connect with any of them. I really liked Snow as a character, which meant I kind of resented Boy and idk if that was the point or not. I thought the setting was interesting and I liked that it was written similarly to a novel written during that time.
There were some bits girl power in this book and I liked that. There are a lot of great female characters who generally don’t compete with each other (but there is a bit of mother/daughter and mother/daughter-in-law).
But, there were a lot of things I didn’t like. I thought parts of it were super confusing. I’m not sure why Boy hated Snow so much, or why she didn’t trust her. There were some parts where Boy would be offended by something, and everyone else would be too, and I didn’t quite understand why. Like I understand the whole “show, don’t tell” but sometimes you need to tell your readers some things. I think this my biggest issue with the book: I just didn’t get the subtle nuances, which were too subtle.
There was also an attempt at magical realism in this book, which I wasn’t expecting and didn’t really work. Some parts did, like the part where Bird wraps herself in Boy’s flag and is transported to when Boy got the flag. I liked that bit. But I didn’t understand the whole mirror thing. Was there something symbolic about it I don’t understand? Probably, but it seems from Goodreads that no one really gets it.
There was an attempt at including an element of the LGBTQ+ community as well, and again, I liked parts of it but not the rest. I won’t spoil anything, but basically I enjoyed that the character was openly queer during that time period and didn’t shy away from it. She embraced it, and others embraced her and I really enjoyed that. But the rest of her story I thought was unnecessary. It kind of explains some of her actions and reasoning, but not totally.
The plot was interesting and different that what I’ve read recently. HOWEVER it was practically nonexistent. This book took FOREVER to get to the point. Like, when I read the synopsis I thought the whole “being hidden blacks” thing was going to be a major part, but it only really came up near the end, in about the last thirty pages of the novel. The first third dragged on, the second third dragged on, and then the last third was good. I still enjoyed the first two parts, I just thought there could have been more plot in them.
My overall thoughts were that I enjoyed reading this book but there was a lot I didn’t get and I wish there was some more explanation because it basically just had me saying “okay but why?” the entire time.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you’re into adult fiction or adult contemporary novels. If you want action-packed, fast-paced, then no. If you only read YA, probably not.
Thanks for reading! Have you read this book? If so, what were your thoughts?