I didn't have much luck with Oyeyemi's most recent release, Boy, Snow, Bird, so I went into White is for Witching interested but with tempered expectations. While it definitely surpassed my BSB experience, this novel was not without its issues.
As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances (for Miranda, chalk). The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power. With distinct originality and grace, and an extraordinary gift for making the fantastic believable, Helen Oyeyemi spins the politics of family and nation into a riveting and unforgettable mystery.
Soooo, yeah. That blurb makes some big promises, and the book only partially follows through. Miranda's story is interesting. She's all screwed up from the loss of her mother, and rightly so. The house seems to have an even more destructive effect on her, but is it really the house or is Miranda just crazy? Signs point to both.
This book is just weird. Weird-beautiful in spots and frustratingly weird in others. While I enjoyed the smattering of fairy tale elements in this story, I was less satisfied by the alternating perspectives of Miranda, her twin, the house, and one of Miranda's friends from college.
There was definitely an off-kilter, menacing atmosphere in this book, but I kept looking for some deeper message or meaning to it. The blurb mentions issues of politics, family, and nation, but those things were only glimpses. The overarching story seemed to lack depth, and like Boy, Snow, Bird, I thought Oyeyemi had way too many conflicts in the air to flesh any of them out to a satisfying degree.
In short, while I enjoyed bits of it, I doubt I'll pick up more of Oyeyemi's work.
Pub. Date: February 2014 reprint
Format: Trade paperback
Source: Bought it!