Book Review: Boy, Snow, Bird

I know I said that I wouldn’t be posting any entries until NYE and I complete all of my finals, but I made a discovery and I have to share it.

Although I am an avid reader, I have never written a book review, mainly because I was always quite satisfied with keeping whatever thoughts I had about each book to myself. But there was always one book that kept nagging at the back of mind. It was like an unsolved puzzle that I couldn’t quite figure out. From my first encounter with Boy, Snow, Bird, I felt that I was missing something. The author, Helen Oyeyemi, is known for creating fable-like novels with hidden messages. Being that I love hidden messages, I was even more fascinated by what this book could be telling me, but I never understood it.

That was until this morning. In the year that I first purchased the book, I’ve read it a total of three times, this being my third. In the novel, we are first introduced to what seems to be the protagonist, Boy Novak, a young woman who is continuously abused by her rat-catcher father. She manages to make an escape to Flax Hills, MA, where she begins a new life and joins a new family who seem to be something that they are not. When she gives birth to her first and only child, Bird, Boy’s new family’s secret is exposed. Her newborn baby turns out to be Black.

Boy begins to view her step-daughter, Snow, as an adversary to her daughter. Snow, who is flawlessly beautiful with her fair skin and dark, long hair. Snow, who is worshiped by her family, mainly for continuing the charade of being a White-American family. Boy decides to send Snow away to protect her daughter from feeling less than, and to allow Bird a chance at feeling beautiful without constantly being compared to her older sister.

The confusion for me starts when the story begins from Bird’s point of view. Throughout the novel, there is an underlying theme of mirrors. Mirrors are usually seen as a reflection of whatever is in front of it. In this novel, however, mirrors are seen as another dimension where the subject can interact with their reflection. Both Boy and Snow have these encounters with mirrors, but Bird does not. I never understood why that could be. Even Bird is taken aback by the idea that her reflection does not seem to show up in the mirror. It’s as if she does not exist.

Most folk tales state that monsters and creatures not of this world do not have reflections. In Bird’s sense, she is also not of this world. Bird is not able to relate to the rest of her family; she does not look like them, she does not act like them, and she seems to very much accept the fact that she is different, rather than hide it like her family. In a sense, Bird is a mirror, reflecting back at her family. What happens when you put one mirror in front of another? Nothing is reflected, just like Bird does not see herself.

I definitely recommend this book for the many different themes that it discusses. I feel even better now that I’ve finally uncovered one of the mysteries that have been haunting me. Hopefully I can unfold the others.

Until next time…

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