White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Title:  White is for Witching
Author:  Helen Oyeyemi
Release date:  June 23, 2009
Publisher:  Nan A. Talese
Pages:  240
Genre:  Fiction
Source:  Library

Miranda and Eliot Silver are twins who have been raised in a house haunted by three generations of the women in their family: their mother, their grandmother, and their great-grandmother.  Miranda has a condition called pica, which means she eats inedible things such as chalk and plastic.  Over the course of the book, both Eliot and Miranda go away to school and while Eliot safely distances himself from his family and their scary house, Miranda drifts towards insanity and feels the house calling her back, beckoning her to leave school and stay at home.  The novel is told in multiple narrators, one of which is the house itself, and it is alternately creepy and beautiful.

I decided to read White is for Witching based on Eva’s review – she compared it to Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which I loved, so it just made sense for me to read this one.

I definitely enjoyed White is for Witching.  What I liked about it was the combination of the creepy/gothic stuff mixed in with normal, everyday life kinds of characters.  True, Miranda was ill, and true, there were some serious skeleton’s in this family’s closet – but they were just a regular family, living in this crazy haunted house, but going about their business anyway.  The fact that the house itself was a narrator was awesomely weird (and I must admit that it took me a bit to catch on to this, I can be a little slow from time to time).  I particularly enjoyed the scenes when Miranda was away at school, and how the relationship she had with another woman was treated as if it was perfectly normal and okay (which it is, but isn’t often written about like it is).

I mostly appreciated how Oyeyemi made me care about these characters while also being creeped out and trying to figure out what the heck was really going on.  I liked that White is for Witching is so different from what I typically read, but I managed to like it so much anyway.  I like that I had to work a little harder than normal for this one – like I said, I can be slow, and there were some elements of the plot that I had to go back and reread pages to really understand.  But working harder for it really made me appreciate the greatness that is inside these pages.

I definitely agree with Eva’s comparison of this book to We Have Always Lived in the Castle. If you are a Shirley Jackson fan, I would definitely make Helen Oyeyemi your next author to try!


18 thoughts on “White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi”

  1. Yay! I’m glad that you found my comparison justified, and that you enjoyed this one even though it’s not your usual style. 🙂 It was definitely more experimental than most of the fiction I read, but I think that’s part of what made it so much fun. lol

    1. Thanks for recommending it to me! It is definitely important for me to read outside of my comfort zone, so I’m so glad I tried this book. 🙂

  2. I plan on getting this book as soon as I can convince myself it’s okay to buy new books even though I have 300 unread ones on my shelves. 🙂

  3. My goodness, I really need to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle! I feel like I’m the only one left who hasn’t. I don’t really like creepy stories, though- I get really scared…

    1. Yes, you totally do. I think you would love it. It’s not exactly scary… creepy is the right word. But you won’t worry about ghosts in your living room or anything like that. It’s a different kind of creepy.

  4. I have this checked out from the library now. I’m super excited to get into it now that it has been compared to something by Shirley Jackson!

  5. Ha, I don’t think you’re slow for taking a little while to figure out Oyeyemi’s narrators. This is a hella confusing book in a lot of ways, and the exact nature of the house is never explained. (I like that about it, but it is confusing.)

    1. Thanks for making me feel better, Jenny! I liked how things were left somewhat unexplained but I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating. I was left wondering if maybe my mind created something that wasn’t really there…? But really, the book was awesome for its ambiguity and experiential nature.

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