Friday, September 4, 2020

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Reviewed by Christy

            Miranda Silver has pica, an eating disorder where the victim feels compelled to eat nonedible items – such as chalk or plastic bits from a spatula, both favorites of Miranda’s. After her mother dies when she is only sixteen, Miranda’s condition worsens and neither her father nor her twin brother can help her. So she is sent away to get better. When she returns (not fully recovered), her family welcomes her home as does the house itself. The house is conscious and favors the women of the Silver family, although it does not take kindly to any strangers within its walls . . . and it has ways of making its displeasure known.
            This book has been on my to-read list for a few years, and after finally tackling it, I have to say I’m a little disappointed. The prose itself is lovely, and I can see why people enjoy Oyeyemi’s work. It has a very dreamy, fairy tale-like feel. But I think the style is just a little too abstract for me. The story meanders along without much happening, and it became a struggle to read at times. Points of view switch frequently but there is never any indication of whom is speaking so the reader must rely on context clues. Which for me meant going back and reading the passage from the beginning once I knew who was narrating. It was tedious. I never really became invested in the characters, and I felt as if I was being kept at a distance the whole time.
There are bright spots, however. The horror elements and anytime the narrative switches to the point of view of the house are especially well done. I think the unusual prose really lends itself to those moments and shines. Overall, it may just come down to personal taste but I like my stories just a little more straight forward. There is no denying, however, that Oyeyemi writes beautiful prose.

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