Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Published March 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: bought this one for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:

From the award-winning author of Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr. Fox comes an enchanting collection of intertwined stories.

Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don't You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).

Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation?

My Thoughts:
I picked up What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours partly because of this:

Winner of the PEN Open Book Award
An NPR Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Pick
A PBS NewsHour Best Book of 2016
A Slate Best Book of the Year
One of Esquire Magazine’s Best Books of 2016
One of Oprah.com’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016

Those are some serious kudos there. But mostly I picked it up because I remember someone (a podcaster? a blogger?) fangirling about it big time. So much so that it stuck in my head in a way I couldn't shake loose.

So...book of short stories which are loosely tied together by the theme of locks and keys. Which, because I didn't read the summary before I launched into the book, I didn't wise up to until well into the book. Which is ridiculous because those things play such prominent rolls in several of the stories. But, hey, sometimes that's how I read...obliviously.

Like every book of short stories I've ever read, I liked some of these stories much more than I liked others and not just because I understood some of them more than I did others. Although that's true. I adored the first story, "Books and Roses" with its intertwined stories about love and family and secrets. "Drownings" and "Dornicka and The St. Martin's Day Goose" read the most like modern twists on traditional fairy tales. ""Sorry" Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea" offers insight into idol worship and the repercussions on young girls. Puppets play a role in more than one of the stories and give readers much more than you might think to consider.

Lewis-Syford House
"A Brief History of The Homely Wench Society" combined my past and my present. There is, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a home built in 1878 that sits right on fraternity/sorority row that appeared to be sitting empty when I went to the University. There were a lot of rumors about it, the most popular being that it was the home to a secret society. It's exactly where I imagined the Bettencourt Society meeting in this story, a secret society of young men admitted to the society based on their charisma. Once upon a time the young men of the Bettencourt Society held a dinner where each member was required to bring a homely wench. Word got out and young women across the campus formed their own society, The Homely Wench Society. Nasty women, as it were, which brought me full circle from my past to my present.

If you like your short stories unique and with unusual characters and story lines that sometimes make you think "what the heck did I just read," What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is for you. I'm still working on what I like in a short story collection; it would appear that Oyeyemi may already have figured it out for me.

1 comment:

  1. I love the title of this collection and am glad you enjoyed this one. The stories sound wonderful. I will definitely have to check this one. Thanks for your great review, Lisa.