Jessamy “Jess” Harrison is an eight-year-old caught between two worlds. The daughter of a British father and a Nigerian mother, she has always felt like a misfit. She is smart and precocious, but can’t seem to get along in school; she throws tantrums at random, making life a challenge for her parents. Believing that she needs a change from her English environment, her parents whisk her off to visit relatives in Nigeria.
Jess’s adjustment to Nigeria is only beginning when she meets Titiola, or Tilly, whom only Jess can see. Tilly quickly insinuates herself into Jess’s life, appearing out of nowhere even after Jess returns to England. At first Tilly is Jess’s comfort and delight, but gradually her visits become more disturbing when she reveals that Jess had a stillborn twin and that she intends to be the sister Jess never had.
The Icarus Girl is a strikingly original variation on a classic literary theme—the existence of “doubles,” both real and spiritual. With grace and confidence, Helen Oyeyemi skillfully blends the motifs of Nigerian folklore with the complexities of cultural displacement to capture the mysterious power of myth to transform reality.