Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

genre: fiction short stories

I'm not the biggest fan of short story collections, I should just put that out there.  This was a book club choice and I probably wouldn't have chosen it off the shelf, I find that I loose interest and when I'm done, I never really know how to sum up a collection of short stories.  Each one is so incredibly different, with no real overarching theme except maybe the idea the every one of us is hiding something - and each of us will need something particular to unlock it.

I like that they all had a foreign glaze (well, foreign to me as an American) - one seeped us in Spain, others in London, several in the Czech Republic and Prague in particular, some that clearly aren't HERE but aren't really anywhere we know either.  Her writing is both beautiful and lush.  I had to look up words I didn't know and when I did, my reading experience was richer for it.  Her characters are sometimes so blah that they are intentionally impossible to understand and other times they are intriguing and full of life.  Nearly every story has characters who are of color or LGBTQ without that being the point.  I really liked how in so many instances there were characters that we would meet in one story that would pop up later, which just made the threads in my head race around trying to place people and events in some kind of context.

There are puppeteers.  There are washerwomen and artists who possess keys to secret gardens.  There are feminists and readers and peasant women, office workers and psychologists.  The pages of this collection drip with magical realism, which I usually really like but was hit or miss here.  Sometimes they were just too much of a stretch for me or they ended before I was invested enough to super care. Maybe her depth and the just-strange-enough-names of her characters made my brain work too hard for me to fully enjoy myself.

note: there is language and a few graphic scenes

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