White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Sometimes you just never quite figure out what is really going on.

Maybe that is the point.

Or part of the point.

I’m not sure.

Helen Oyeyemi’s novel White is for Witching is the story of Miranda, a young woman raised in an ancient house in the Dover countryside with her twin brother Elliot. After their mother violently dies in a Haitian shooting, they are left in the care of the father, a series of housekeepers and the house itself.

The house is powerful. Does it care for Miranda or is it trying to harm her? Has it imprisoned the spirits of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother out of benevolence or is its love something dark?

And, as is the case with most of the better haunted house stories, is the house really haunted at all? Elliot and Luc, the twins’ father, don’t seem to be affected by whatever spirit has possessed the house. Why does it only go after the women of the house? Why go after this particular family of women?

The library book club, which meets above the witchcraft supply store here in Grass Valley, met yesterday. They did not like the book.

The main issue for the group is the confusion caused by the multiple narrators. The book shifts from person to person without warning, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. There are no clear visual indicators when these shifts occur, and it can be difficult to figure out which voice is speaking until a couple of paragraphs have passed. We get Miranda’s point of view, Elliot’s, Miranda’s girlfriend Ore, the housekeeper Sade and the house itself. A few folks, me included, read pretty far into the book before realizing that the house was speaking.

Of course, everyone is hiding something which only makes it more difficult to figure out exactly what is going on.

To be honest, all of this confusion didn’t bother me, really. I’m fine with not knowing exactly what is going on as long as I’m entertained and I don’t mind having to work my way through a narrative to figure out who is speaking or whatever. But the group did basically agree that there was not enough of a payoff for all this work.

By the end, the story has gone done the rabbit hole quite a bit, which is common for a gothic horror story. But there was no emotional punch, no revelation or “a-ha moment.” I thought it was fun as far as haunted house stories go, but I don’t think it’s one that will stay with me after I post this review.

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