The Opposite House

The Opposite House

Book - 2007
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"I read The Opposite House with rare happiness. The voice in it is so sure, the risk it takes is so good and the intelligence in it is a sheer relief."
--Ali Smith, author of The Accidental

Maja Carmen Carrerra was only five years old when her family emigrated to London. Growing up, she speaks the Spanish of her native land and the English of her adopted country, but longs for a connection to her African roots. Now in her early twenties, Maja is haunted by thoughts of Cuba and the desire to make sense of the threads of her history. Maja's mother has found comfort in Santeria--a faith that melds Catholic saints and the Yoruba gods of West African religion. Her involvement with Santeria, however, divides the family as Maja's father rails against his wife's superstitions and the lost dreams of the Castro revolution.

Maja's narrative is one of two parallel voices in Oyeyemi's beautifully wrought novel. Yemaya Saramagua speaks from the other side of the reality wall--in the Somewherehouse, which has two doors, one opening to London, the other to Lagos. A Yoruban goddess, Yemaya, is troubled by the ease with which her fellow gods have disguised themselves as saints and reappeared under different names and faces.

As Maja and Yemaya move closer to understanding themselves, they realize that the journey to discovering where home truly lies is at once painful and exhilarating.

Publisher: Toronto : Penguin Canada, c2007
ISBN: 9780143017776
Branch Call Number: OYEYEMI
Characteristics: 257 p


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Sep 20, 2017

Oyeyemi's prose is always masterful, and her settings secure yet surreal. The substrate and anchor in the work is definitely self-perception as we follow Maja and experience her relationship with her parents, brother, boyfriend and best friend and feel her growing disconnect with her adopted city of London and the barely-remembered country of Cuba which her family fled. A surreal feeling is ever-present in her works - like a veil over a everything - which I feel is the closest thing that writing can come to expressing one's internal world and thoughts. Gotta be truthful regarding the somewherehouse and its function as a parallel... without the summary pointing out that parallel between Maja and Aya, I wouldn't have caught it, and definitely wouldn't have caught the Santeria panoply morphing into and mixing with the Catholic saints. Overall it is enjoyable and is full of Oyeyemi's unique style.

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