The Opposite House
—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.
Oyeyemi (Icarus Girl) returns to the realms of myth and magic in her second novel, the rewarding and challenging narrative of Maja, a 24-year-old black Cuban woman whose family fled Castro's revolution for London when she was seven. Maja has recently moved in with her boyfriend, Aaron, and discovers she is pregnant with the child she's wanted since she was five years old. And though adjusted to life in London, she begins to wonder about the country her family left behind. Coloring her search for a sense of belonging are the gods and goddesses of Santeria, a fusion of Catholicism and West African Yoruba beliefs. Flashbacks flesh out Maja's relationships with her Santeria-practicing Mami, her professor Papi (who is not a Santeria practitioner) and her bully-bait younger brother, Tomás. Maja's gay best friend, Amy Eleni, provides Maja with sharp insight that helps her come into her own. Interwoven is the story of Aya, a goddess of Santeria who lives in the "somewherehouse," which has one door that opens onto Lagos and one onto London. Though the prose can tend toward the imprecise ("she felt a pull and a fuzzy, bite-sized happiness"), the novel's lyrical and stylistic experimentation speaks to Oyeyemi's depth of talent. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. “Complex, challenging, utterly thrilling.” —The Miami Herald“A startling literary prodigy. . . . [Oyeyemi] has the ability to shift between realism and expressionism without surrendering to self-indulgence. . . . Recalls the visionary worlds of Emily Dickinson, Neruda and even Rimbaud.” —The Washington Post Book World “Beautiful, meandering. . . . [A novel] about the difficulties of knowing who you are, especially if you are born of several incompatible cultures.” —The Times (London)“Again displays [Oyeyemi's] amazing sure-handedness that is far beyond her years.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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