Magic Is In the Air
Science Fiction and Fantasy novels make up a very small percentage of my annual reading list. This is not for a lack of appreciation for the craft and imagination that goes into creating these stories. Nor is it for a lack of trying.
I love devoted genre readers, because they are typically so passionate about their favorite series or authors. They are also not shy about selling you on those favorites.
My interest in any given book usually can be measured as an inverse of how many supernatural elements are present in it. Are there dragons involved? Sorry, I’m probably out.
But casually drop some magic into an otherwise realistic novel, and I’m hooked.
I’m not entirely sure how to classify books like this. Magical Realism is probably the best descriptor, but several books I’ve loved recently have elements of speculative and new weird fiction as well. These are the books that when I’ve read a third of the way through, I find myself thinking (and many times saying out loud), I don’t really know what I’m reading, but I love it.
In each of these novels, magical elements serve character or plot development in what is an otherwise realistic storyline. If you’re looking to add a sprinkle of magic into your reading this month, here are my suggestions.
The Change by Kirsten Miller
Imagine harnessing the collective rage of women of a certain age and transforming that into a supernatural force for good. This is the premise of Miller’s The Change, which takes place in an affluent suburb as three women uncover something sinister happening in their midst. It's a furious and fun read that may have you rethinking your neighbor’s garden.
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Reading The Change reminded me of The Uncoupling by Meg Wolizter—a favorite of mine from a few years back. This is a biting and funny satirical fantasy set in the quaint suburb of Stellar Plains, New Jersey. When the town’s drama teacher decides on Lysistrata at the year’s play, a spell is cast over the community that upends domestic life.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
When this novel begins, you think it’s going to be one thing. In the middle, you’ve discovered it’s something else. By the end, it’s neither of those things and nothing you expected. Described as “Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada,” this novel blends elements of horror, thriller and women’s fiction into something altogether new for a wild ride.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Wilson is another favorite author who I recommend to those who don’t mind a little strangeness in their fiction. In Nothing to See Here, Lillian receives an out-of-the-blue call from her old friend Madison requesting her help. Aimless and down-on-her-luck, Lillian has nothing to lose and agrees to help Madison with her stepchildren. Just a slight catch, the children spontaneously combust when agitated or over-excited. A very quirky and equally hopeful story of the families we make.
The Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
This novel traces the coming-of-age of Neil, a 2nd-generation Indian American growing up in outskirts of Atlanta in a community that is overflowing with both love and high expectations for him. Neil only wants to go unnoticed and get by, but the pressure he feels from his parents to be exceptional are ever-present. Then, he discovers that his neighbors may hold the secret to success in a strange concoction made from stolen gold.