If you’ve heard about magical realism, but haven’t knowingly sampled it yet, the top sellers on Amazon are a wonderful place to start.
- The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, September 2011. I read this as soon as it came out and it became one of my favorite books. It edged out The Tiger’s Wife as that year’s favorites as I wrote in this post. The fact that it’s still number one, shows it has staying power and that people continue to find it. It has a long list of starred reviews, telling me the critics also like it. A circus shows up out of nowhere, displays breathtaking feats of real magic as though they are mere illusions, and then disappears. What a joy to read.
- The Mermaid’s Sister, by Carrie Anne Noble, March 2015. This book is the 2014 Winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult Fiction. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m impressed with the general tone of the reviews and what I can see via the book’s “Look Inside” feature. The cover is delightful and the publisher’s opening words about the story are tempting: “There is no cure for being who you truly are…In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.”
- Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, by Haruki Murakami are two novels issued in this one volume set for release next month. They haven’t previously been available in English. According to the publisher, “These powerful, at times surreal, works about two young men coming of age—the unnamed narrator and his friend the Rat—are stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism. They bear all the hallmarks of Murakami’s later books, and form the first two-thirds, with A Wild Sheep Chase, of the trilogy of the Rat.” I am tempted by this book, but more tempted by the book sitting in position number five.
- God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison, April 2015. I have read most of Morrison’s work and have this book on order. While the cover is disappointing, the reviews are positive. The publisher describes the book this way: “At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that ‘what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.’” I’ll stipulate that so far, I’ve only read what I can see via “look inside,” but based on that, I think it will be difficult for any author in 2015 to match the power of this story.
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (audio version), by Robin Sloan, October 2012. I read this book when it came out and found the story and characters strange and compelling. I don’t care for the cover but, like Morrsion’s book, the reviews are positive. And, what can be more tempting for an author than a publisher’s description that (1) starts out like this: “A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore” and (2) begins like this: “Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder. I am exactly halfway up. The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left far behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it’s dark up there–the books are packed in close, and they don’t let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat.” I hope the world will always have bookstores that can be described this way. The book kept my attention, but not enough to re-read it as I have The Night Circus.
There’s a lot to like here if you’re of a mind to sample the latest magical realism. Then, stop by Malcolm’s Round Table on July 29 when I’ll be taking part in a magical realism blog hop.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella set in the Jim Crow era of the Florida Panhandle, “Conjure Woman’s Cat”
See the Indie View interview about how I write and why I wrote this book.
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