cover image What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

Helen Oyeyemi. Riverhead, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59463-463-5

In her first story collection, Oyeyemi (Boy, Snow, Bird) conjures present-day Europe, made enticingly strange by undercurrents of magic, and populated by ghosts, sentient puppets, and possible witches alongside middle-aged psychiatrists, tyrants, and feminist undergrads. Loosely linked by a theme of keys and doors, many of the stories feature female protagonists discovering their sexuality or coming into their own. In “ ‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea,” 14-year-old Aisha and Tyche, her father’s colleague, send the goddess Hecate to torment teen idol Matyas Füst for beating a prostitute; in “A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society,” Aisha’s sister, Dayang, is a member of a women’s society at Cambridge University, waging a good-natured war against the Bettencourt Society, a rival all-male club. “Drownings” is an allegorical tale set in a dictatorship where citizens are “drowned in the gray marshlands deep in the heart of the country.” “Dornicka and the St. Martin’s Day Goose” is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, draw on Eastern European history and lore. And in “Presence,” a married couple in London undergo a pharmaceutical trial causing them to hallucinate a son they never had, a “makeless” boy. Readers will be drawn to Oyeyemi’s contagious enthusiasm for her characters and deep sympathy for their unrequited or thwarted loves. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (Mar.)