The Opposite House: Book summary and reviews of The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi

The Opposite House

A Novel

By Helen Oyeyemi

The Opposite House
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2007,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Maja was five years old when her black Cuban family emigrated from the Caribbean to London. Now, almost twenty years later, Maja is a singer, in love with Aaron, pregnant, and haunted by what she calls “her Cuba.” Growing up in London, she has struggled to negotiate her history and the sense that speaking Spanish or English made her less of a black girl. But she is unable to find herself in the Ewe, Igbo, or Akum of her roots. It seems all that’s left is silence. Meanwhile distance from Cuba has only deepened Maja’s mother faith in Santeria —the fusion of Catholicism and Western African Yoruba religion—but it also divides the family as her father rails against his wife’s superstitions and the lost dreams of the Castro revolution.

On the other side of the reality wall, Yemaya Saramagua, a Santeria emissary, lives in a somewherehouse with two doors: one opening to London, the other to Lagos. Yemaya is troubled by the ease with which her fellow emissaries have disguised themselves behind the personas of saints and by her inability to recognize them. Lyrical and intensely moving, The Opposite House is about the disquiet that follows us across places and languages, a feeling passed down from mother and father to son and daughter.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[T]he novel's lyrical and stylistic experimentation speaks to Oyeyemi's depth of talent." - PW.

"I read The Opposite House with rare happiness. The voice in it is so sure, the risk it takes is so good and the intelligence in it is a sheer relief." —Ali Smith, author of The Accidental.

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Author Information

Helen Oyeyemi Author Biography

Photo © Mark Pringle.

Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984 and has lived in London from the age of four. She completed The Icarus Girl just before her nineteenth birthday, while studying for her A-levels. She is now a student of social and political sciences at Cambridge University. She has written two plays, Juniper's Whitening and Victimese. She has since written two more novels, The Opposite House and White is for Witching.

Name Pronunciation
Helen Oyeyemi: ooo-yee-yemi

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