We left off at the point where Boy, now married, gave birth to a baby girl named Bird who exposes that Boy’s husband and family are Blacks passing for Whites. Boy sends her stepdaughter, Snow, to live with Snow’s aunt and uncle. Part two of Helen Oyeyemi’s fairy tale masterpiece is where the surreal elements begin to emerge. Bird is now thirteen years old and our narrator for this section, her tale being interspersed with letters from her estranged sister Snow, now twenty-one.
Bird is, so far, the best written character of the entire story. Full of energy that bounds off the page, she’s a realistic, serious young woman who thinks and acts more like a twenty-year-old than a teenager. Her perceptive behavior is an excellent tool for showcasing the nuances of those around her. Objectivity is brought up frequently and I was surprised to see just how objective Bird was when it came to judging Boy, her mother, for sending Snow away. She’s starting to mistrust Boy, who plays a very limited role in this part of the book. Bird and Snow begin a series of correspondence between one another whereby they learn strange things. Bird admits, “I don’t always show up in mirrors” and that she speaks to spiders. At first it’s unclear as to whether this is a part of Bird’s imagination but, at least when it comes to not showing up in mirrors, it is proved to be a fact. Later Snow reveals that the same phenomenon happens to her.
We are treated to hints about Snow leading a deceptive lifestyle, possibly betraying everyone who knows and loves her. What it is she does is unclear as of now. Meanwhile, Boy cautions Bird against Snow and Bird continues to have strange experiences both in reality (the ups and downs of adolescence are particularly well described here) and with what seems to be fantasy. What initially seemed like a story out to explore the trope of the modern ‘wicked stepmother’ has now transformed into much more. What that ‘more’ is I am not yet certain of but, needless to say, Oyeyemi is setting this up to be more mystifying and captivating with each page.
The language continues to be exquisite. Oyeyemi has truly captured the voice of a world conscious, adventurous thirteen-year-old and the contrast between Snow’s voice and Bird’s is so beautifully rendered, one hardly needs letter or dialogue tags. At this point, I want to see more of Boy’s role with both her daughter and her stepdaughter. Part II has set the stage for the sisters to discover each other and come together, emotionally and physically. I don’t doubt that part III will take the pieces set in motion and throw them for one heck of a spin.
Boy, Snow, Bird releases on March 4, 2014 in Canada and March 6, 2014 in the United States.