I was so so so excited when a lovely friend decided to share this ARC with me. I read such wonderful reviews of it ahead of time.
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak escapes her abusive father and flees to a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. The birth of Boy and Arturo's daughter, Bird, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold through shades of the Snow White folktale. (Adapted from Goodreads.)
I was enthralled with the first third of this book. It was Boy's story of escape from her rat-killing, abusive father. Her realization that those around her, including her husband, were passing. IT WAS SO GREAT! There was so much meat. So much to be evaluated and dissected. Relationships, identity, Othering.
And then the perspective shifted to the girls, Snow and Bird, and the entire thing fell apart for me. While I was prepared for a take-off on the "Snow White" story, the magical realist elements took over to an extent that seriously disappointed me. The girls' section, written largely in letters, diluted the issues of race when the role of the fairy tale should've revealed greater insight and helped magnify the characters' choices and struggles.
Overall, I found the secondary characters in this novel nondescript and difficult to grasp. To the point that I had a hard time remembering who was who, outside of a select few.
And don't even get me started on the ending. Sensational and weirdly out of place.
YOU GUYS, I SOOOO wanted to love this book after that first section. When I finished reading, I was actually angry that I didn't like it because I liked that first part so very much. If this had been structured differently and developed some of the peripheral characters more, I think it could've been love. As it was, it fizzled. I gave it 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
Pub. Date: March 6, 2014
Source: From a friend.