Helen Oyeyemi is an expert in pulling back the cobwebs from the old trunk in the attic, shaking out the goods within, and daring you to take a good strong look. She weaves familiar fairly tales with Yoruba folktales, inter-generational family strife, and good old fashioned 21st century anxiety. In her most recent novel, Gingerbread, she leaves spicy breadcrumbs of Hansel and Gretel, the Gingerbread Man, and many other traditional tales. I was also strongly reminded of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Orsinian Tales. Oyeyemi’s characters present the world of Druhástrana to each other. Did a mother really grow up in this foreign land, and does it even really exist? It is so fully realized that you will find yourself convinced by Oyeyemi and her characters alike.
While the novel carries a dusting of the classics- cinnamon, icing sugar, and the Gingerbread Man, it also speaks so clearly to modern anxiety. This is exactly how I feel every time I receive a text from someone that I was once close with, but now I don’t know how to properly carry on a conversation with them- let alone a relationship of depth:
Ok, I missed the window of time. You know, the one that lets you respond without it being blatant that you thought too much about how to respond…or too little. And then thought it’s not as if we talk much on the phone anyway. We’re always good in person. Aren’t we? There was something you really wanted to talk about, so. Here I am in person.
I will continue to wait impatiently for the next Oyeyemi, and while Gingerbread wasn’t the exquisite life-ruining moment of Mr. Fox I do hope to spend more time in Druhástrana – whether or not it does exist.