What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_1305“The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side.”

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is a collection of nine short stories that center around the theme of keys, both literal and metaphorical.  Helen Oyeyemi has created stories that drew me in right from the start.  Each tale has an element of a story within a story, which is brought to life through beautiful writing and storytelling.

The theme and flow of the stories works well and each stands on its own.  With short story collections there sometimes is a tendency of everything blending together, however this is definitely not the case here.  I did find the stronger stories to be at the beginning and the end of the book, with the middle section lacking the strength of the rest of the collection.  Having said that there weren’t any stories I disliked, instead it was a mix of ones I loved, liked, and a couple I thought were just okay.  As far as short story collections go that is a big win for me.  Out of the nine stories, the ones I enjoyed the most are:

books and roses – a key opens the door to a library, a garden, and is the key to the fate of two lovers.

“sorry” doesn’t sweeten her tea – there is a house of locks, a scandal involving a famous singer, and the casting of a spell.

a brief history of the homely wench society – about a rivalry between two societies at a University that dates back many decades.

if a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that don’t you think – a mysterious diary is locked and for a very good reason.

My biggest takeaway from reading this collection is the beauty of Helen Oyeyemi’s writing, which is compelling and captivating.  This is the first book I have read by this author and very much look forward to exploring more of her work.

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