cover image The Opposite House

The Opposite House

Helen Oyeyemi, . . Doubleday/Talese, $23.95 (257pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51384-5

Oyeyemi (Icarus Girl ) returns to the realms of myth and magic in her second novel, the rewarding and challenging narrative of Maja, a 24-year-old black Cuban woman whose family fled Castro's revolution for London when she was seven. Maja has recently moved in with her boyfriend, Aaron, and discovers she is pregnant with the child she's wanted since she was five years old. And though adjusted to life in London, she begins to wonder about the country her family left behind. Coloring her search for a sense of belonging are the gods and goddesses of Santeria, a fusion of Catholicism and West African Yoruba beliefs. Flashbacks flesh out Maja's relationships with her Santeria-practicing Mami, her professor Papi (who is not a Santeria practitioner) and her bully-bait younger brother, Tomás. Maja's gay best friend, Amy Eleni, provides Maja with sharp insight that helps her come into her own. Interwoven is the story of Aya, a goddess of Santeria who lives in the "somewherehouse," which has one door that opens onto Lagos and one onto London. Though the prose can tend toward the imprecise ("she felt a pull and a fuzzy, bite-sized happiness"), the novel's lyrical and stylistic experimentation speaks to Oyeyemi's depth of talent. (June)