Gingerbread: A Novel (Hardcover)
March 2019 Indie Next List
“To me, any new book by Helen Oyeyemi is a cause for celebration, and Gingerbread is no exception. Harriet Lee is a mother, a daughter, a PTA-wannabe, a tutor, and a gingerbread baker. She is also Druhastranian—a refugee from a country that may (or may not) exist. No one is quite sure where Druhastana is or how to get there, but Harriet’s daughter, Perdita, is determined to find out even if it kills her. While still imbued with Oyeyemi’s trademark fairy tale essence, this novel is a departure into weirder, more uncanny territory. Oyeyemi, who lives in Prague, has finally given us her Czech novel, and it’s perfect.”
— Devon Dunn, Book Culture, New York, NY
"Exhilarating...A wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel." - The New York Times Book Review
"[W]ildly inventive…[Helen Oyeyemi's] prose is not without its playful bite." –Vogue
The prize-winning, bestselling author of Boy, Snow, Bird and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a bewitching and imaginative novel.
Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children's stories, beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.
Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there's the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it's very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee's early youth. The world's truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet's charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval —a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.
Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother's long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet's story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi's inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader.
About the Author
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, along with five novels—most recently Boy, Snow, Bird, which was a finalist for the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She received a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists.
"Exhilarating. . .Gingerbread is jarring, funny, surprising, unsettling, disorienting and rewarding. . .This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader. And that is just one of its many pleasures."- New York Times Book Review
"Charm evident on every page."– Slate
"This is a bold book with a great deal of depth and mischief to it that makes you think how astonishing it would be to have our parents sit up with us for a whole night and tell us in fine detail what they have lived." – Financial Times
"Is there an author working today who is comparable to Helen Oyeyemi? She might be the only contemporary author for whom it’s not hyperbole to claim she’s sui generis, and I don’t think it’s a stretch either to say she’s a genius, as opposed to talented or newsworthy or relevant or accomplished, each of her novels daring more in storytelling than the one before. . .A tale that bears multiple rereadings and is more marvelous the deeper you’re willing to dive into its rearranging of reality, its derangement."- Los Angeles Review of Books
"Helen Oyeyemi is a master of reinventing tropes from traditional fairy tales to say something entirely new about the world we live in. She twists familiar stories in entirely unpredictable ways, and her books never end up where you thought they would when you started." –Vulture
"Curious, original and little bit strange—in the best possible way."- HelloGiggles
"Gingerbread rises to the level of Mr. Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird, revealing Oyeyemi as a master of literary masquerade, forging a singular art."—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"A beautifully, wildly inventive beast. Nobody else writes like this: puncturing the timelessly poetic with harshly contemporary asides, animating plants and dolls with a cool nonchalance. And how is it that this dark, nutty novel exudes cozy warmth above all else?"- Entertainment Weekly
"Gingerbread isn't just one of the best books of March, it's poised to be one of the best books of the year thanks to the magnificent writing of Helen Oyeyemi."- Cosmopolitan.com
"The line between real world and fairy tales in Helen Oyeyemi’s novels is never clear, which means they’re way more fun. Following the plot of Oyeyemi’s latest novel can be a challenge, simply because Gingerbread abides by fairy tale logic, not the conventional structure of a novel. But if you sit back and accept the twists, we guarantee you’ll enjoy your romp."- Refinery29
"Helen Oyeyemi flexes her exceptional talents and infuses her magic into this novel."- Bustle
"Oyeyemi’s sixth novel sparkles with her sublime inventiveness."—BBC Culture
"[A] challenging, mind-bending exploration of class and female power heavily spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with molasses."—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Playful, enchanting…a modern-day fairy tale with a mysterious twist."—Marie Claire
"Like a fairy tale tethered to reality, Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread is as warm and piquant as the foodstuff it’s named for.” –Harper’s Bazaar
"[T]he novel's real enchantment is its experimentation with storytelling itself. . .this book is not only about childhood, but also what it feels like to be a child." —Time
"Fans of Oyeyemi’s work won’t want to miss it, and first-time readers will become fans, too." –Bust Magazine
"Helen Oyeyemi's writing is full of enchantment and magical details, and will make you want to dive into your own family's rich legacy. Side effects include cravings for gingerbread.” –Woman’s Day
"From a childhood best friend named Gretel to a family recipe passed down through generations, Oyeyemi takes us on a journey that is wild and adventurous. Gingerbread is a novel you won't soon forget.”—PopSugar
"Oyeyemi takes the familiar contours of a children's tale and twists it into something completely new, unsettling, and uncanny. . .A strange, shape-shifting novel about the power of making your own family."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Idiosyncratically brilliant. . .Oyeyemi excels at making the truly astounding believable and turning even the most familiar tales into something strange and new. This fantastic and fantastical romp is a wonderful addition to her formidable canon."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[Gingerbread] has the tinge of the folkloric to it: There are family feuds, a childhood friend named Gretel, and many more archetypal touchstones. Tying this all together is Oyeyemi’s deft hand, virtuosic lyricism, and graceful ability to find transcendence in all aspects of life, sweet and spicy alike.”—Nylon.com
"Gingerbread is the story’s metaphorical core, both sweet and spicy, simple and yet it is the hook for much strange and bizarrely haunting children’s folklore, and Oyeyemi manages to make something just as complicated and delicious; her prose is not without its bite."—Vogue.com
"Gingerbread looks set to bring more of her inventiveness and wit to a fairytale element—gingerbread, of course—that holds a mysterious place in children’s literature.”—Literary Hub
"Oyeyemi’s trademark imagination makes for an enchanting, unreal story about legacy and birthright.”—Esquire.com
"Oyeyemi's latest is a clever subversion of fairy tale tropes to expose the secrets, entanglements, and estrangements within a family…Both a scathing indictment of capitalism and a tribute to the maddeningly inescapable endurance of family bonds, this enchanting tale will resonate with literary fiction lovers.” – Booklist
"[A] rollicking tale from the wildly inventive Oyeyemi." – Library Journal