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.
In [Oyeyemi's] hands, the realm of lore and the so-called 'real world' exert a gravitational pull on each other, resulting in unexpected amalgamations of Bluebeard and Yoruban folk tales, Tinder and talking dolls, and complex, unconventional characters who tug the trajectory of recognizable tales out of the ruts and grooves of a well-traveled road. With her newest novel, Oyeyemi ventures away from these familiar shapes, though not from the playful reinvention of genres and tropes ... The first half of the novel borrows its momentum from the train itself, barreling forward toward an unknown destination of unknown import, lurching back and forth between the interiors of eccentrically decorated train cars and the playfully enigmatic interiorities of the characters. Oyeyemi is a master of leaps of thought and inference, of shifty velocity, and the story’s long setup has the discombobulating quality of walking through a moving vehicle while carrying a full-to-the-brim cup of very hot tea ... The lure of real connection and real resolution, their transformative power turning an obscure object of pursuit into a steadfast counterpart, moves the cast of characters toward denouement in much the same way that a death motivates investigation in a locked-door murder mystery ... at the book’s end the story lands more Patricia Highsmith than Agatha Christie: a maze of identity and desire that has an ending, but not a solution. Every piece of the puzzle falls into place, but the picture is never made whole. Perhaps this is Oyeyemi’s point: To be at peace with the vagaries of human connection, you have to learn to find the wholeness in every part.
Delightfully weird and deliciously eccentric ... When I started reading, I found myself quite lost and without solid footing in the plotlines. My advice for readers is: like any train ride, let it take you where it wants to go. The structure of the novel definitely mirrors a meandering train track, but always with purpose and forward momentum. The sentences themselves are delightful puzzles to solve as they unfold, and I argue it’s worth the patience to see how paragraphs build...unfolds slowly, satisfyingly, and it’s not until the very end that we discover how it ties into the main storyline. The anticipation is much like boarding a train without a set destination and being rewarded for your trust ... conveys a feeling similar to a fever dream ... For some readers this level of confusion might become frustrating, but for others, the temptation for a reveal will keep the pages turning ... There are both tender and tense moments. Oyeyemi’s choice to have Otto narrate the story seems fitting, as we’re able to hear the sarcasm, wit, and loftiness of his voice, even as it’s clear he is confused or frightened by the happenings on the train. His love for Xavier is palpable, and his unreliability as a narrator makes the strange, hazy-faced man who attacks him and then ultimately jumps off the train a questionable reality. Otto, who is a self-proclaimed hypnotist, is the type of narrator who you both care for and mistrust in equal measures. The whole novel is quite unnerving, and it’s due in large part to Oyeyemi’s choice to conceal the truth, to keep you interested, eager to figure out the mystery ... As with most of Oyeyemi’s books, she asks you to have confidence in her craft and follow her through to the end. The conclusion especially picks up pace, like a speeding train taking curves much too quickly, the scenery out the window changing as drastically as the events upon the page. In the end, there are a few disjointed events and surprise appearances, but what else would one expect on such an extraordinary journey?
... a hurtling hothouse of a novel ... It’s all so drenched in quirk and whimsy, the stuff of Wes Anderson fever dreams. But, unlike Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, the legacy of empire is wild and wakeful on Oyeyemi’s train, not just elaborate wallpaper ... lurches in and out of time and memory, accumulating symbols and backstories like clues to a grand whodunnit...Whether that missive delights or maddens will depend entirely on the reader ... By the time Oyeyemi’s wilfully disproportionate train has stopped, a unifying character has appeared in silhouette: the artist who painted those shapeshifting canvases. As his connection to our cast is drawn out, so is a parable of connection, of the ways we shapeshift to fulfil each other’s desires. Peaces turns the existential terror of feeling unseen into a corporeal reality ... continues Oyeyemi’s career-long project of helping us to unsee – unsnarling the neural knots that childhood fairytales tied in us: those tales of sovereignty and dominion, of limp princesses and their flaxen-haired suitors, of snowy purity and moral absolutes. White-on-white ... What we lose in orientation in this novel, we gain in a kind of merciless velocity. It’s hard not to feel like a passenger aboard this book, a little queasy from watching the narrative blur and judder. But for all of her twee excesses, there are few writers who can match Oyeyemi’s creative glee. On a first read, Peaces works best when you stop trying to solve it, and instead surrender to that exuberance. Far better to sit back and revel in this book’s queer sensualities and the sherbet fizz of its wit; to enjoy the company of platinum-furred, jewel-hoarder Árpád, lithe as Nijinsky reincarnate; or perhaps try to imagine a melody that makes a 'theremin sound as if it was looking back on a long life of crime'. Then when it’s over, return – clear-eyed – for a second trip.