In White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi has done the thing I was afraid she wasn’t going to manage, which is to become EVEN BETTER YET in her third book than she was in her second. She can’t keep this up much longer, right? I mean she has to plateau at some point, right? Helen Oyeyemi! What will you do to stagger and amaze us next?
White is for Witching is about a set of twins, Eliot and Miranda, who live in a haunted house. Miranda has pica, and the house hates foreigners. As the book goes on, we come to realize that there are people in the house apart from those that its inhabitants can see, people that the women of Miranda’s family have sometimes been able to perceive. Miranda and Eliot go off to Cambridge and South Africa (maybe), respectively, and still they are bound to each other and to the house. Spookiness ensues.
Simon’s review of this book suggested Helen Oyeyemi might have got too experimental for her boots with this one, which filled me full of fears that she had given up on interesting plots/characters in favor of using too many words in unorganized word salad sentences. In fact there’s just a hella lot of ambiguity and uncertainty about the sort of evil the house is wreaking, and what all the characters’ true motives are. Which is the sort of ambiguity I can see why someone would mind it, but I do not, when the book is about a sinister haunted house. A haunted house is scarier if you can’t lay the ghost.
Another reason I liked it (but someone else might not) is that there are multiple narrators, in varying degrees of reliability (one of them is the house. You really can’t rely on the house to tell the truth). I love multiple narrators. I have done ever since I was in fourth grade and my mother bought me Caroline B. Cooney’s Among Friends, and I thought it was the coolest idea ever and swiftly went off and wrote a book my own self with multiple narrators. One of them was a unicorn, and one was a talking book. And at the end? The army of men and the army of women all decided to get married, so they didn’t have to have a war after all. Lesson learned: It is rather lame to pretend like you are going to have to have a Major Event (like a war) at the end of a book, and then for some silly reason not have to have the Major Event after all. [Thinly veiled subtext: I learned this lesson before I left elementary school, while Stephenie Meyer never learned it at all.]
That unnecessary slighting reference to Stephenie Meyer brought to you by: Embarrassment at my nine-year-old self’s idea of what constituted a good story.
Anyway, multiple narrators. I am a fan. If you are not, this may not be the book for you. Ditto for if you need to be perfectly clear on the spooky haunty happenings and what’s real and what’s not. Otherwise, hit this up immediately. It is damn good. I’m only sad that Helen Oyeyemi has no further books for me to read right now.
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