What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
Helen Oyeyemi’s playful collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, is unapologetically odd—a goldmine for those who crave magical realism with surprising twists told through spectacular writing. The book opens with the strongest of its nine stories, Books and Roses which converges the histories of an orphan and a painter, unexpectedly linked. Another highlight in this collection examines the conflict history between two of Cambridge University’s social clubs, one of which is an all-female group called the Homely Wench Society. Other stories follow a husband and wife who undergo an experiment, a young man whose parents try to persuade him to work with them at a hotel, students at a peculiar puppetry school, an inventive weight loss facility, and a distressed ghost.
In fairytale fashion, Oyeyemi seamlessly intermixes the ordinary with the fantastical. Keys are a recurring symbol throughout the collection, which unearth unsolved problems, secrets, and love. Oyeyemi is unafraid of vagueness and deviations from the original story; it’s frustrating at first when these moment arise, but readers will learn to trust Oyeyemi’s skillful storytelling. Readers should take their time with each story, possibly rereading in order to glean as much of Oyeyemi’s intent and meaning as possible.