Renee Alberts's Reviews > The Opposite House: A Novel

The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi
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Jul 13, 10

Read in June, 2010

The Opposite House alternates between two storylines. In one, a Cuban family who immigrated to England deals with cultural conflict in their adopted homeland. In the other, a woman, who is possibly a Yoruba goddess, navigates her mysterious “somewherehouse,” which has otherworldly tenants and doors that open to both London and Laos. Questions of cultural, familial and individual identity dominate the novel’s themes. The narrator, who is pregnant, navigates her role with her partner and within her birth family, especially in the idealistic conflicts between her mystic mother, a Santería practitioner, and her ultra-logical father, a history professor. As an immigrant and a woman, ideas of belonging and origin also weigh heavily on her. She divides her psyche into her present self, her memories of Cuba, and her hysteric, a part of her personality who “is blank, electricity dancing around a filament, singing to kill.” Oyeyemi’s elegantly writing is full of such irresistible daredevil poetry. Her characters are intensely eccentric, but honest. Their dynamic relationships, especially between the narrator and her best friend and her mother, are emotionally engaging. The Opposite House elegantly weaves an absorbing tale from differing experiences, realities, cultures and myth.
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Quotes Renee Liked

Helen Oyeyemi
“Like every girl, I only need to look up and a little to the right of me to see the hysteria that belongs to me, the one that hangs om a hook like an empty jacket and flutters with disappointment that I cannot wear her all the time. I call her my hysteric, and this personal hysteric of mine is designer made (though I'm not sure who made her), flattering and comfortable, attractive even, if you're around people who like that sort of thing. She is not anyone, my hysteric; she is blank, electricity dancing around a filament, singing to kill.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“When the hysteric saw what the suffragists had done--the way that en masse they'd turned starvation onto its side--she must have been suprised. Her shock must have brought her close to speech.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
Who's there?
Something old? Someone holy...?

Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“If you should find yourself in a place that is indifferent to you and there is someone there that your spirit stretches to, then that person is kin.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“On a dais in a London church, the Virgin Mary sits suprised by a rough crest of candlelight. The discomforture isn't in her expression but in the fluid form her carving takes, the way peaceful eyes rest in sockets that threaten to release them. Either the wood is eccentrically soft, or this sculpture remains a tree, alert
(despite careful varnishing and a wide, warning ring of sacred space around it)
to a propensity to burn.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
How can you know me and want to die?
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“She isn't a storm or a leader or a king or a war or anyone whose life and death makes noise. The problem is words. There is skin, yes. And then, inside that, there is your language, the casual, inherited magic spells taht make your skin real. It's too late now--even if we could say "Shut up" or "Where's my dinner?" in the first language, the real language, the words weren't born in us. And unless your skin and your language touch each other without interruption, there is no word strong enough to make you understand that it matters that you live. The things that really "stay" are an Orisha, a kind night, a pretended boy, a garden song that made no sense. Those come closer to being enough.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“The Soul Selects Her Own Society (Chapter 12 title)”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi
“Mami answers and her voice is hoarse and thin, and i think fight me better than this.”
Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House: A Novel


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