If Gingerbread is your first Helen Oyeyemi novel, then there is something you need to know. You are about to love a story that you may or may not understand. It straddles the familiar and the world of make-believe so remarkably well that you may be left believing in that which doesn’t quite exist, while questioning what you consider to be facts about family, friendships and, of course, gingerbread.
We follow the life of a girl named Harriet Lee, daughter of Margot and Simon, who grows up in the land of Druhástrana amid the idyllic wheat fields, in a life of serfdom to the wealthy and legendary Kercheval family. But Druhástrana, once a powerful small nation, seems to have fallen off the map, and now only exists as a myth for the rest of the world. No way in. No way out.
Or so it seems—until Margot gets a message via a homing pigeon from a very distant cousin in Britain (also a wealthy Kercheval), who somehow comes across a video clip of Harriet and sees promise in the young girl. He wants to rescue the Lees, so to speak, and thanks to Margot’s magical gingerbread, Harriet and Margot are able to leave Druhástrana, but with a new debt to the Kerchevals.
That was then, and this is now. Living in a seven-story walk-up apartment, Harriet is now 34 years old and a mother to a very curious 17-year-old named Perdita. Will Perdita be the reason that Harriet and Margot are finally forced to revisit their Druhástranian roots? And were they really able to escape their history while forging a new life in Britain?
Thoroughly strange yet absolutely mesmerizing, the sixth novel from award-winning Oyeyemi is the perfect escape.