Boy, Snow, Bird

by Helen Oyeyemir (Riverhead)

In her latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi uses loose allusions to fairy tales and folklore to examine race in mid-century America. It's 1953 and Boy Novak is a young white woman escaping an abusive father. After fleeing to a small Massachusetts town she marries Arturo Whitman, a local jeweler, and becomes stepmother to his angelic six-year-old daughter Snow. Their happy home life is shaken when Boy gives birth to a dark-skinned daughter and the Whitmans are exposed as light-skinned African-Americans passing for white. The Whitmans are a fascinating family, driven apart by how each of them reacts to the racist society around them. Boy is also a fascinating character, but the book falters when it reveals an out-of-nowhere twist concerning her father. It's a huge plot point packed into the last 20 pages of the book, coming too late and too fast to make the reader feel anything but whiplash.

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