Helen Oyeyemi’s short story collection creates an interlocking and fantastical world that is hard to look away from. The characters live in slightly different realities, but cross over into each other’s worlds- a side character in one story becomes the main character in their own story next. Thematically, the stories are connected by imagery of locks and keys which felt fresh- what is behind that door? Who are you keeping out? What are you keeping in? Her imagined worlds are also wildly creative- a hidden garden; a locked library; a central European fairy-tale cottage; a futuristic medical clinic; a puppet theatre. Style and tone-wise, Oyeyemi keeps you guessing- you settle into a story that feels like it could have been written about this world and then slowly events happen that make you realize you’ve been in the Upsidedown the whole time.
They NYT review for this book describes it as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, which is an apt descriptor- the stories themselves are short and work alone, but the overall impression once you put them together is like an amusement park that drifts occasionally into the funhouse in the movie Us- lots of bright colours and flashing lights, sometimes fun and uplifting, sometimes dark and disturbing.
I can’t wait to read this over again.