Magical Realism, beyond Latin America.

image of mistress of spices book coverAuthors such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez are well known for their wonderful stories rich in metaphor and infused with a sense of magic. The titles below are similar in style, but are written by authors from cultures other than those of Central and South America.

  • The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan. Louis Belk remembers his bomb disposal assignment in Alaska during World War II and the ethereal Japanese balloon bombs he was sent to find and disable. He finds instead a lovely and mysterious landscape rich with culture and impossible to leave.
  • Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Marco Polo converses with and elderly Kublai Khan about the essential natures of each of the cities in his magnificent empire, describing each in metaphor and poetry to capture the reality of its being. The conclusion: despite our differences community endures.
  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai. Sampath Chawla, a withdrawn young man, causes a hullabaloo when he escapes the confusion of his household and climbs a guava tree for peace and quiet. Unable to leave him alone, his loving family takes care of him while villagers seek his blessing.
  • Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Spices are imbued with mysterious power and require much of Indian immigrant, Tilo, as she struggles to learn their lore and to use her clairvoyance and knowledge of spices to help troubled customers. She cannot, however, distance herself from the handsome Raven whose love pulls her away.
  • Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler. When Sarah Canary wanders into his railway camp, Chin Ah Kin tries to steer her away, preferably to the asylum, since she looks wild and doesn’t speak. The two are separated, however, and when they reunite, Sarah is still an enigma and Chin has had wild, sometimes frightening adventures.
  • Wild Life by Molly Gloss. It’s 1905 and a child is missing in the damp woods of Washington state. When adventure writer Charlotte Drummond joins the search, she becomes lost and is found by a legendary “monster.”
  • The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. Max lives backwards: his body starts out old, his mind, young. As he ages, he seems too wise for his younger body. His love life is unusual, fascinating, and for others around him, disturbing, his life a poignant image of pure and radiant heart book covermetaphor for missed opportunity.
  • The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman. Generations of the Sparrow family women have inherited psychic abilities. Stella’s ability to see the future is tested when her father is accused of murder.
  • Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet. An ironic twist of fate brings three famous physicists forward in time from 1945 to the present, where they are exposed to the consequences of their invention: the atomic bomb.
  • The Tree Bride by Bharati Mukherjee. Karma and past secrets connect the tree bride’s life to that of her great-great granddaughter, Tara Chatterjee, whose life is threatened by a man determined to kill her.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Both Saleem Sinai and modern-day India are born at midnight on August 15, 1947. Saleem’s life mirrors that of India in an intensely packed tale of confusion, violence and rapid change.
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