When I started reading Boy, Snow, Bird, I was prepared for a story that turned the trope of wicked stepmother on its head. I expected to read a modernized version of Snow White, from the point of view of the stepmother in order to learn about and possibly even understand the motives behind the notoriously jealous and unforgiving behavior that she embodies. What I got instead was a story about race culture, politics, femininity, and gender blending.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of this turn of expectations. I love fairy tales, their origins, and their retellings and was entirely prepared to gush about the excellent modern take Helen Oyeyemi pursued to one of the oldest tales. After ruminating for some time, I realized that what I expected is exactly what I got, only so much more.
Oyeyemi adds layers and peels back the veils of humanity. She allows her characters to leave a trail of stunning, thought-provoking breadcrumbs for readers to navigate. The turn of events that she leaves us with at the end of the story was one that encouraged me to turn back through the pages repeatedly until I had come to a degree of peace and understanding with what was being presented. At the end of the novel, Oyeyemi has done what every brilliant storyteller should do–surprised, provoked, lulled, and moved you as a reader.