Review: Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi, Was A Journey Worth Taking

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Time would tell itself to you, bringing with it a whole host of physical memoranda, the flaring and dwindling of this orb and that. Time would crowd in close that you didn’t feel it passing.

Rating 3.8 stars

There are some books that leave you with answers, some books that leave you with questions, and some books that leave you a little confused. Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi is one of those books that leave you with all three, yet still satisfied by the story all the same.

This book is a wild train ride with no real sense of space, time, or destination. For most of the book I felt disoriented, unsure where I was and where I was going, but yet I felt enthralled by the mystery and more importantly I kept turning the page. 

The story begins with us boarding a former tea smuggling train called the Lucky day with couple Otto and Xavier who are going on their non-honeymoon honeymoon, the trip was a gift from Xavier’s wealthy aunt. As they board the train with their mongoose, Arpad Montague they have no idea where they’re going and they hope to get a glimpse of the mysterious train owner Ava Kapoor, who lives on the train. The train itself is bizarre with a bunch of different compartments and themed rooms that the couple set out to discover. 

Unknown to them they set out on a journey they could have never imagined. And we soon learn that there are forces that have brought them to be on this particular train at this particular time, and as the story unfolds there are tons of coincidences and backstories that come into play.

I didn’t expect to like this story, at 30 pages in I almost gave up on it because I just didn’t understand what was happening and the ridiculousness of the characters and their weird backstories. I couldn’t quite grasp it, then I did something I rarely do, I just kept reading and dropped my expectations and just enjoyed the story.

There’s a lovely part of the story where Oyeyemi talks about the types of observers at marionette shows and that part truly stuck with me. She says that some people will simply watch the show and enjoy it while others will watch the details such as the strings and be distracted from the story.  When I became the first type of observer that’s when the story truly came to life for me. 

What I loved most about this book were the writing and the storytelling. Oyeyemi’s writing is lush, provocative, and beautiful, as she tells the story in a way that it feels as though you’re at a party with an old friend as he tells you all about his unbelievable life. I do wish I could have got to know the characters a little more, I feel as though there was a disconnection because I didn’t really know their goals as characters.

This journey was definitely one worth taking. What were your thoughts on this one? Would you ever board a train without knowing where it was going?

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me a copy for my honest review.

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