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White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

White Is for Witching (edition 2009)

by Helen Oyeyemi (Author)

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5813425,064 (3.32)80
Title:White Is for Witching
Authors:Helen Oyeyemi (Author)
Info:New York : Nan A. Talese, 2009.
Collections:To read, Diversity, Borrow(ed)
Tags:dark fiction, LGBTQ+, by Women of Color, shirley jackson nominee, *next

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White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi


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I read this for the Diverse Voices square for Halloween Bingo

White is for witching, a colour to be worn so that all other colours can enter you, so that you may use them.

Creepy, intriguing, mysterious, frustrating, and melancholy, White is for Witching had a very strong start that sagged a bit in the middle and then ultimately puttered out into its own enigmatic mysteries.

Miranda can’t come in today Miranda has a condition called pica she has eaten a great deal of chalk—she really can’t help herself—she has been very ill—Miranda has pica she can’t come in today, she is stretched out inside a wall she is feasting on plaster she has pica try again:

To me, the house (and any real or imagined non-human inhabitants) is the sun with Miranda being Mercury, her twin brother Eliot as Venus, and their father Earth. Secondary characters such as a friend Miranda makes at college called Ore would be a moon of Mercury and the housemaid Sade could be a comet. This is an odd way to place the characters but I don't want to spoil too much of the story but still give an idea of the story's placement of characters.

The way this story is written and structured is different, povs from mainly Miranda, Eliot, and the house (yes, the house has a pov), flow in and out with blips from Sade, Ore, and maybe a couple other minor ones I am forgetting. You need to be on your game to fully understand who is talking but even then, things can get confusing with possible unreliable narrators and not knowing what is real and mental health issues.

The horror of the story is that there is a house that is possibly haunted, maybe by a soucouyant (a witch in Caribbean folklore), maybe by a curse on the female line of a family, and maybe simply a daughter that lost her mother and is spiraling down a mental health destructive hole. This story centers on women, their strengths and weaknesses; Eliot plays a good sized role but he is still clearly on the sidelines along with his father who is ineffectual in his drowning grief for his wife.

They were naked except for corsets laced so tightly that their desiccated bodies dipped in and out like parchment scrolls bound around the middle. They stared at Miranda in numb agony. Padlocks were placed over their parted mouths, boring through the top lip and closing at the bottom. Miranda could see their tongues writhing.

The beginning had me captured with Eliot leading us into the story about how his mother died and how his sister is withering away because she seems only able to eat chalk. From Eliot's point of view it seems more like a mental health issue with occasional povs from the house and Miranda popping in to make you believe in the shiver going up your spine. The middle starts to transition to more of Miranda's point of view, her struggles with her mental health and the house, along with looks at Miranda's female ancestors.

When Miranda leaves the house for a little while is when the story started to lose me a bit. Sade and Ore get added to the story, I thought Ore was too late of an additive and even though she brought an outside look and probably worked to more definitively answer the mental health or truly haunted question, I missed the atmosphere of the house and Eliot with Miranda.

“I’m to go home. The house wants me,” she cried. The moonlight made her look blue. It made her look as if she was dead. She opened my window and sat herself on the ledge; she dangled her bare legs over it. We were four floors up.

I don't know how many have watched the tv series The Leftovers but this story gave me the same kind of feelings. Majorly intriguing start, with questions, mysteries, and interesting characters everywhere, only to maybe out write themselves and end up leaving a lot up in the air in a way that devalues the story.

As far as giving you the heebie jeebies, this will definitely do it, some scenes had me looking hard into dark corners in my house. As far as the characters sticking with me, probably not, as they didn't quite become fully fleshed out to me. I do know I would love to see this made into a limited series, Netflix get on that, the psychomanteum room scenes would be chilling good.

That was the first and last time I’ve heard my own voice. ( )
  WhiskeyintheJar | Feb 14, 2019 |
It was hard to stay super interested in a funny book about a not funny subject, but I'm glad I read it. There were definitely parts that had me laughing out loud, so I was not disappointed - it just felt like the type of book that wasn't a binger. ( )
  echoechokg | Sep 21, 2018 |
So I initially read this book because it was one of the required readings for an English capstone course I took. Its a little confusing, I even ended up rereading it a couple times after the course ended. Still not entire positive what really happened. I love how it brings classical elements and tropes from gothic fiction and put a modern spin on it. There are a lot of perspective shifts and I personally love how each is an unreliable narrator. Even the house has narrative space in the book and its own agenda; not even the inanimate building gives a reliable account of what is going on. ( )
  sarahpinkerton | Apr 18, 2018 |
I was really drawn to the premise of this novel because it had some ghostly elements to it, and that's kind of my thing. But I found that this novel was a bit hard to read and get through. For one thing, it is told from multiple points of view but the transition between the different voices is not always clear. We read from Miranda's perspective, from her brother's perspective, from her friend's perspective, and even from the house's perspective. You heard that right ... the house talks. While I found this all intriguing, it got confusing very quickly because the transitions were just so abrupt. I really liked reading about pica, which is a disorder where people want to eat things that are "non-nutritive" like chalk, or paper. This was a very unique feature for the author to include and she carried it out well throughout the story. However, I really didn't like Miranda's character. There wasn't much to her and she was just very weak. In fact, there were quite a few times where I wished the author had worked on some of the characters being introduced. I wanted to have a better understanding of who Miranda's mother was, as her death was like a catalyst for the events that happened. I wished there had been more on the house itself; the author clearly gave it its own voice so it only seems fair that the reader understands more about the character of the house. The list of characters I wish the author had focused on could go on and on .... you get my gist. The story moved quite slowly, which made me bored at times, but I didn't mind the pacing too much since it allowed for this really nice buildup of tension. However, the ending was a moot point; it felt incomplete and unresolved and it made me wonder why I had spent so much effort reading this novel in the first place. In the end, I just didn't enjoy reading this novel - even though I really wanted to. I'm giving this a 1/5 stars.

For more reviews, visit: www.veereading.wordpress.com ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
This was a tough one to get through. It wasn't long, but it was difficult to get used to the writing style. Each section took an adjustment to figure out who was now telling the story. I thought it was going to be really scary, but I felt like the even remotely scary parts were only briefly touched upon and when they were they were a little confusing. I didn't feel very invested in the story or the characters so I really had no feelings either way about their outcomes. ( )
  ctkjs | Jan 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Helen Oyeyemi’s eerie third novel features a young woman who has a strange eating disorder and lives with her twin brother and widowed father in a haunted house across the street from a cemetery full of unmarked graves. On the surface, this setup might appear best suited to the young adult fiction market, but Oyeyemi (who was born in Nigeria and educated in England) knows that ghost stories aren’t just for kids. And “White Is for Witching” turns out to be a delightfully unconventional coming-of-age story.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Oyeyemiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Tooke, KatieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I hold my honey and I store my bread/In little jars and cabinets of my will./I label clearly, and each latch and lid/I bid, Be firm till I return from Hell. - Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems
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Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother's house.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385526059, Hardcover)

Miranda is at homehomesick, home sick ...”

As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power.

With distinct originality and grace, and an extraordinary gift for making the fantastic believable, Helen Oyeyemi spins the politics of family and nation into a riveting and unforgettable mystery.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:00 -0400)

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"In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. The twins, Miranda and Eliot, and their father, Luc, are mourning the sudden death of Lily, beloved mother and wife. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of Silver women inhabit its walls, and Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. When one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story." -- BOOK JACKET… (more)

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