*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Perdita Lee may appear your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Decades later, when teenage Perdita’s search for her mother’s long-lost friend prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value.
Oyeyemi is one of my top authors–when I see a book by her, I have to read it. It’s a compulsion. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by an Oyeyemi book, and Gingerbread is no different. Told in the vein of magical realism, this story tells of a family’s legacy of gingerbread–the one thing that has stayed consistent throughout their lives. A family of women from a mystical country that no one has ever heard of that only exists in folklore and fables, these women hold onto a culture and a history that sets them apart from those around them. They are not quite comfortable in the world, yet they have searched for a place that feels something like home. This story is full of rejection and cruelty–a dark fairy tale. However, it’s also full of the love that only a mother can have for a daughter.
The characters are all mystical and engaging. Their history carries an air of mystery throughout. This history permeates and informs everything the characters do in the present, with one common undercurrent: gingerbread. The writing is beautiful, engaging, and fanciful. Oyeyemi never disappoints. Gingerbread is a story full of secrets. It reminds me a lot of a Murakami novel. One never quite knows where the story is going to wind up, but it’s always a startling and pleasant surprise. The point is to never quite fully understand, but to know that the story is breathtaking and thoughtful. It’s okay that things don’t always make sense and that the story or motivations might be ambiguous at times. There is a lot of room for interpretation and Oyeyemi invites her reader in to experience and explore in their own way.
I always enjoy Oyeyemi’s work. She’s a masterful and imaginative writer with tons of creativity and consistently unique stories. I would highly recommend any of her books. Happy reading!