What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
I smell a new favorite author!!
A collection of short stories, each one spins its own tale with fresh main characters that exist completely within the story. Two women talk about their missing family. A father tries to keep his teenage daughter from heartbreak. A young puppeteer finds love in an unusual place. A man protects his found family. A couple rekindle their romance. A young woman helps to end an age-old rivalry. A grandmother saves her granddaughter from the big bad wolf. A man tries to find a direction in life. A woman watches her coworker’s life fall apart.
I loved all of these stories, but I’m going to go through them individually.
In ‘books and roses,’ I really liked how twisted the story got as it went on. It was really interesting, and sad, and set a great note for the rest of the book with an unabashedly queer love story that is just so heartbreaking and beautiful. It was also the only story I didn’t particularly get because I kept stopping to finish other tasks, but I’m sure I’ll pick up what Oyeyemi is putting down when I inevitably reread this book. This story just sets a great tone for the rest of them.
In ‘“sorry” doesn’t sweeten her tea’, not only is this story relevant to present day, it’s also a great character study on a different kind of family dynamic. The stepdaughter is such a great, relatable character with how she reacts to finding out that her idol is a horrible human being… I liked the implication of what she does to him, rather than the outright statement. It was honestly more satisfying that way. The stepfather’s reactions are also relatable to people who don’t know how to react to the extreme emotions of others. I understand why he reacted the way he did, even though it hurt his relationship with his husband and stepdaughter more than helped. Also, another casually queer relationship and I LOVE IT.
In ‘is your blood as red as this?’, I really enjoyed the split between the puppeteers point of view and two puppets’ point of view. I also loved the setting of a puppet school, and how subtle the relationships between all the characters are. It just lends a beautiful slowness to the story, which usually I’m not a fan of, but it made the fantastical elements all that much better. Casual ghosts, gender fluid tree people, and living puppets?? Love it.
‘drownings’ was just funny, plain and simple. It was so entertaining, with the ’friends’ and their dog, the just deserts of the dictator, and the women who get to live happily ever after. It was a definite uptick in the tone of the stories, and it had a lot going on but didn’t feel too crowded or rushed.
‘presence’ was interesting to say the least. It’s the first round of straight-presenting people, but I liked that there were previous characters mentioned in the background. The touch of not-quite ghosts was also really interesting, because if all of these stories are happening in the same little world, then what does this imply for the other ghosts we’ve seen?
‘a brief history of the homely wench society’ cracked me up. Featuring another hetero romance alongside some queer ones, the story isn’t so much about the romance as it was about the relationships between two societies that aren’t necessarily rivals anymore, but continue on with tradition. It ends with a note of hope for the groups, and I like to think they start a joint book club. :)
‘dornicka and the st. martin’s day goose’ was a Red Riding Hood retelling that was pretty neat, but honestly one of the weaker links of the book.
I believe the point of ‘freddy barrandov checks…in?’ was meant to resemble freddy’s life, where he has no direction and no drive, so the story doesn’t have a direction or drive. It’s not bad, it’s just not my favorite. Freddy wasn’t very likable, but I think that was the point.
I got this book because we had to read ‘is a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that don’t you think’ for a hauntings and horror class, and it was so good. It was spooky and atmospheric, and there’s no real answers, but I’m not upset about that. I feel for the coworker, even though her transgressions were arguably horrible, but I liked that it was told through a third person who may also have a crush on the coworker. And to go from the boring work setting to the fantastical swing scene at the end was a neat switch to emphasize the weirdness of the coworker.
I really loved Oyeyemi’s writing, and the way she uses the language is *chef’s kiss*. We all know by now that I am a sucker for pretty pose. I will absolutely be reading more of her work, and I am adding her to my list of favorite authors.
Trigger warnings: blood, death of parent, gaslighting, kidnapping, abandonment, forced institutionalization, war, death, cursing, grief, bullying, classism, violence, colonization, fire/fire injury, murder
Did I like it? Loved it
Recommend? Absolutely, especially for fans of The Night Circus, all vibes