I’m looking forward to reading Helen Oyeyemi’s new collection of short stories—official publication date March 7. And I love the fact that Oyeyemi uses my favorite opening line for a fairy tale: “This happened, and it didn’t happen.” Here’s one review, along with jacket copy.
So it is in Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, a collection of stories in which elements of fairy tales, myths and legends, from Punchinello to Cupid and Psyche to Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard and Rumpelstiltskin, surface in curious forms in service of mystifying plots. As we’re told in the opening of the story “Drownings”: “This happened and it didn’t happen.”
Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).