Feature

Novel of the week: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

In this stealthy reworking of “Snow White,” Helen Oyeyemi mixes painful truths and fairy-tale magic.

(Riverhead, $28)

“Helen Oyeyemi has fully transformed from a literary prodigy into a powerful, distinctive storyteller,” said Stephan Lee in Entertainment Weekly. A decade removed from The Icarus Girl, her acclaimed debut, the 29-year-old author has produced a fifth novel that liberally mixes painful truths and fairy-tale magic. Her protagonist, a girl named Boy, runs away from New York and an abusive father to a town in Massachusetts, eventually gaining a husband and an uncannily pretty stepdaughter named Snow. But after Boy has a child of her own, it begins to dawn on the reader that this novel about a very white New England town is “not as monochromatic as it appears,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. In this stealthy reworking of “Snow White,” Boy finds herself in the role of the wicked stepmother, and our notions about race get a surprise workout. Other novelists have produced smart twists on the same fairy tale. “But I don’t care what the magic mirror says; Oyeyemi is the cleverest in the land.”

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