This week we're taking a closer look at Powell's Pick of the Month Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi.
begins as a somewhat standard family story, but promptly unfolds into an imaginative tale of a mother and daughter's long family history, at the center of which is an inherited gingerbread recipe. Don't miss this satisfying, unconventional story by award-winning author Helen Oyeyemi. — Kim S.
If gingerbread is the exotic made homely, Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread
is its opposite: the familiar strangeness of the fairy tale form remixed, rolled, and baked into something utterly new. Between the covers of this novel you’ll find animated, half-vegetal dolls, a maniacal Jack-in-the-Box, life-sustaining gingerbread, and a country that may or may not exist. You’ll also find a cogent, sly critique of capitalism and the gap between those who toil and those who reap the benefits of their labor.
Once upon a time in Druhástrana, a mother and her daughter escape tiresome lives of tenant farming and factory work and build a new one together in England. There the daughter becomes a teacher, has a daughter of her own, and this new daughter — quiet, but not so odd — finds a way back to Druhástrana and the mysteries of her mother’s early life there. Mysteries that include a dangerous dalliance with a powerful family and the frenemy antics of a girl named Gretel.
is absolutely delightful, a clever book that winks at you even as it explores the dark seams of fairy tale literature (child exploitation, physical abuse, the painful parts of love). Fans of Naomi Novik
or Lev Grossman
will find much to love here, but it’s essential to point out that unlike most fantasy novels that take inspiration from preexisting literature, there is nothing derivative about Gingerbread
. As Eowyn Ivey
notes in The New York Times
, “This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader. And that is just one of its many pleasures.”
is the story of a girl, a mother, a grandmother, and a beguiling, dangerous land that will trap the unwary traveler. Trust us: it’s delicious.
Check out the rest of our Picks of the Month here