Helen Oyeyemi’s Surrealist Novel, Peaces, Links Presents and Pasts

The eighth book from the Nigerian British writer—author of The Icarus Girl; Boy, Snow, Bird; and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours—has been called “a modern fairy tale.”
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Copies of Helen Oyeyemi's Peaces. Credit: @McNallySK on Twitter.

Copies of Helen Oyeyemi's Peaces. Credit: @McNallySK on Twitter.

Helen Oyeyemi has released a new novel, Peaces. Described by Kirkus Reviews as “a surrealist tale of love, heartbreak, and being haunted by the past,” Peaces centers on a couple who embark on an unusual train journey, and hurtle into curious characters, mysterious events, and discoveries of their own pasts and what these mean for their present.

Here is a description from its publisher, Riverhead Books:

When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment–and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive.

Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message.

As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.

A spellbinding tale from a star author, Peaces is about what it means to be seen by another person—whether it’s your lover or a stranger on a train—and what happens when things you thought were firmly in the past turn out to be right beside you.

Peaces is one of O, The Oprah Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2021.” The New York Times describes it as “vivid, magic-infused,” and Booklist terms it “a modern-day fairy tale replete with interlinked stories and unexpected connections among its vibrant characters.”

Helen Oyeyemi by Penguin Random House.
Helen Oyeyemi by Penguin Random House.

Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (2015), winner of the PEN Open Book Award, along with six novels: The Icarus Girl (2005), The Opposite House (2007), White Is for Witching (2009), Mr. Fox (2011), Boy, Snow, Bird (2014), and Gingerbread (2019). She received a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta‘s Best Young British Novelists. She was recently profiled in Vulture.

Peaces was released on 6 April 2021 by Riverhead Books, and is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.
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