Magical Realism

Of Bees and Mist

Erick Setiawan

Growing up, Meridia is practically invisible to her parents. Her father leaves the house every evening in a cloud of yellow mist and returns home every morning in one of blue. Her mother babbles incoherently and rages in the middle of the night. When Meridia turns 16, she meets, falls in love with, and marries a sweet, young man named Daniel. With their marriage, Meridia escapes a home of solitude only to enter a house filled with animosity and deceit. Eva, Daniel's mother, runs the house with an iron fist and a swarm of stinging bees. She pits her daughters against one another and against Meridia; and when Meridia and Daniel have a son, she tries to turn him against his mother as well. When she finds she can take no more, Meridia must choose between her sanity and her marriage. Writing with a fairy-tale sensibility, Setiawan cloaks every aspect of the novel in magic, spells, and ghosts both actual and imaginary.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Luis Alberto Urrea

This novel is based on the first 19 years in the life of the author's Mexican great aunt, Teresa Urrea, or Saint Teresa of Cabora (1873-1906). The illegitimate daughter of a poor Native Indian woman and a wealthy landowner, Teresa is raised on a farm and taught the healing arts by a curandera (female healer). At 16 she is raped, lapses into a coma and dies.  This passionate and rebellious young woman arises from death with a power to heal--but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the Saint of Cabora.  The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a vast, hugely satisfying novel of love and loss, joy and pain.

The Monsters of Templeton

Lauren Groff

Returning in disgrace to her born-again Christian mother's home after a disastrous affair with her professor, temperamental Willie arrives at the same time the remains of a prehistoric creature are discovered in the town's lake, a finding that tests Willie's archaeological skills and leads to painful revelations about her family. This is a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl's search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding story is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store

Robin Sloan

When Clay Jannon, a jobless website designer, applies to work the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, he must promise not to open any of the volumes shelved in the dimly lit, way-back stacks. These titles are only for members of a book club, who arrive periodically in the wee, small hours to trade one obscure manuscript for another. But it doesn't take long before boredom—and curiosity—gets the better of Clay. Between occasional customers, he designs a 3-D virtual replica of the store on his laptop and discovers a pattern to the borrowing and more questions than answers when he finally cracks one of the dusty tomes. Sloan has crafted a delightful modern-day fantasy adventure, replacing warriors, wizards, and rogues with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, a Googler, and a book clerk.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Red Garden

Alice Hoffman

The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives. From the town's founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City with only his dog for company, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives. At the center of everyone’s life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look.

Rule of the Bone

Russell Banks

As a punked-out teenager Chappie lives with his mother and abusive stepfather in an upstate New York trailer park, slipping into drugs and petty crime. Rejected by his parents, out of school and in trouble with the police, he claims for himself a new identity as a permanent outsider; he gets a crossed-bones tattoo on his arm, and takes the name "Bone." After taking up with a dangerous biker gang, he finally settles in an abandoned schoolbus with Rose, a child he rescues from a fast-talking pedophile. There Bone meets I-Man, an exiled Rastafarian, and together they begin a second adventure that takes the reader from Middle America to the ganja-growing mountains of Jamaica. It is an amazing journey of self-discovery through a world of magic, violence, betrayal and redemption.


Louise Erdrich

Set in North Dakota in the early 1900s the narrative voice alternates between Nanapush, a wise old man of the Chippewa tribe, and Pauline, who abandons her Native Indian heritage in an obsessive conversion to Christianity. Both tell the story of Fleur Pillager, a magnificent woman who is rumored to be a witch, and whose life mirrors both the conflict within the Native American community and the eventual supremacy of the White world over their culture. Rescued by Nanapush after her family dies in an epidemic, and already rumored to possess influence over men's lives, Fleur ironically is the victim of gang rape when she leaves the reservation to work in the nearby town of Argus. Nanapush gives his name to Fleur's daughter Lulu, counsels Eli who loves and woos Fleur, and watches the betrayal of her pride and power. Pauline, who becomes a nun dedicated to martyrdom, has a role in hastening Fleur's destruction.

The War of the Saints

Jorge Amado

This exuberant tale is set among the flashing rhythms, intoxicating smells, and bewitching colors of Brazil. The holy icon of Saint Barbara of the Thunder is bound for the city of Bahia for an exhibition of holy art.  As the boat bearing the image is docking, a miracle occurs and Saint Barbara comes to life, disappearing into the milling crowd on the quay.  Somewhere in the city a young woman has fallen in love and her prudish guardian aunt has locked her away--an act of intolerance that Saint Barbara must redress.  And when she casts her spell over the city, no one's life will remain unchanged.