What do a key, a puppet and a wench have in common? According to What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi’s excellent new short-story collection, more than you might think.
We first fell in love with Oyeyemi’s poetic, imaginative prose in 2005’s wickedly subversive The Icarus Girl, about a troubled girl with a mischievous imaginary friend. And her newest offering follows in that vein with nine stories that are fable-like in tone but modern in message.
Our favorite, “Books and Roses,” is set in Spain and concerns orphans, maids, libraries and a key (a common symbol--literal and figurative--throughout the collection), and tells the story of two women searching for lovers wholeft them behind. We also loved the hilariously feminist “A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society,” about dueling social clubs at Cambridge.
Oyeyemi’s insertion of absurd elements like puppets and mystical diaries into otherwise quotidian situations calls to mind the magical realism of Isabel Allende. But her tone is more biting and, at times, really quite funny. The stories arefun to read, but you’re never sure if you’re in on the joke (in the best way possible).