Gingerbread is award-winning author Helen Oyeyemi’s sixth novel. This is a deliciously dark and chewy tale in which Perdita Lee learns about the origin story of her mother, Harriet Lee, and also learns about her mother’s unusual (and possibly made-up) homeland of Druhástrana.
Stirring in fairytale logic throughout the novel can be disorienting at times, but overall the sprinkling of storybook elements and imagery is charming and enjoyable. This was like reading a dark fairytale in a modern setting but the text never gets bogged down in metaphors or flowery language. In fact the novel is surprisingly funny in parts like when the grandmother needs help with Tinder, an online dating app.
In the novel, sweet and bitter gingerbread serves as a device for Harriet Lee to share her life’s story with her daughter. Once the reader slices into Harriet Lee’s history, the real-world issues baked into the center become evident: topics like immigration, slavery, mother-daughter relationships, and female friendships. Anyone can enjoy this novel, but readers who like fantasy or speculative fiction or those who enjoy contemplating female relationships will really love Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread.