Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

downloadOyeyemi’s schtick is repurposing fairy/folk tales. She doesn’t retell them, exactly–rather, what she’s doing here is something more like riffing. This one is Hansel and Gretel.

But it’s not about a brother and sister, and there’s no obvious correlate for a witch. Instead, there’s a mother-daughter pair of gingerbread-baking immigrants from a vaguely Slavic country that, even in the world of the book, may or may not exist, and a quest to reunite with a childhood figure (name of Gretel).

It’s an intensely odd book–it both is and is not set in our contemporary reality–but it seems for the most part to have its own logic, even if it’s not something I can articulate. It’s not a fairy tale because people act as humans, not as archetypes, even if the consequences aren’t what we’d expect. On the whole, it didn’t quite come together for me, and it dragged a bit in the middle, but I’m still impressed by the sheer ambition.

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