Celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently.
Where her previous books explored childhood possession and teenage hysteria, mediated through Cuban mythology, Yoruba storytelling and the Gothic novel, Mr. Fox threads a story of love and literary ambition through the texture of fairy tales, and sees her extending the range and clarity of her voice to remarkable effect. It is an incredibly self-reflexive book, in which the symptom of and solution to everything is the writing of stories, and structurally it resembles a dropped pack of cards; but it's also funny, deep, shocking, wry, heart-warming and spine-chilling.
Fox and Foxe’s stories, written together, gain gravity and depth. Now the characters can connect, even if these connections are fraught and painful. Oyeyemi never lets go her ability to turn a phrase, but here she uses her powers for the gut-level work, the agony and beauty of passion and love. And the stories are wonderful … The book makes a case for itself and its unusual structure that is utterly convincing. Some readers may crave more overt connections between the stories. Yet they create a mosaic between Fox and Foxe, a cracked portrait of love, all the while working as a refracted mirror of the relationship between husband and wife, which has been strained by the dominance of Mr. Fox’s increasingly active fantasy world … Charm is a quality that overflows in this novel, and it works under its best definition: as a kind of magical attraction and delight.
Mary comes to life in many of the 10 stories that Mr. Fox creates, but she also comes off the page to haunt, help and entertain both Daphne and Mr. Fox in their everyday lives, which, thanks to Mary, aren't so everyday. Oyeyemi dares us to wonder what exactly Mary is: an author's inspiration or something more complex — a charming combination of ghost, conscience, marriage counselor and heroine … Oyeyemi has a tireless imagination and doesn't stay put for long. It can feel like a jolt when she intermittently detours out of Mr. Fox's world of stories and returns us to his and Daphne's struggling marriage. But it's a testament to the strength of Oyeyemi's concept and its brilliant execution that, like Mr. Fox, we much prefer to escape into his inner life than to confront his reality.