Renee Alberts's Reviews > The Opposite House

The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi
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Jun 04, 2010

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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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