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Magical Realism

Readers' Cafe

Absalom's Daughters
The Alchemist
The Antelope Wife
Bless Me, Ultima
Boys of Alabama
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Chocolat
The Confessions of Max Tivoli
Eva Luna
The King of Infinite Space
Latitudes of Longing
Life of Pi
The Mermaid's Child
The Night Circus
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Portrait in Sepia
The Rock Eaters
The Shadow of the Wind
Station Eleven
The Underground Railroad
Absalom's Daughters / Suzanne Feldman

Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full time in her grandmother's laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for "colored music" and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father's inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what's rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial strife and violence. Suzanne Feldman's Absalom's Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.

The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho continues to change the lives of its readers forever. With more than two million copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has established itself as a modern classic, universally admired.

Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

The Antelope Wife / Louise Erdrich

Originally an important hunting ground for the Ojibway, the city of Minneapolis draws from nearby reservations many Native people, people who infuse the city with a strong and ongoing Native presence as well as a potent indigenous past. This story brings to life the people who live in or around this midwestern city. And like a modern city itself, it portrays people of all backgrounds and is a mixture of vibrant cultures and ideas. But also like a modern city, it has an edge, troubled by violence.

Bless Me, Ultima / Rudolfo A Anaya

With exquisite prose and wondrous storytelling, this coming of age classic follows a young boy as he questions his faith and beliefs in family, religion, and other aspects of his Chicano culture.

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world...and will nurture the birth of his soul.

Boys of Alabama / Genevieve Hudson

Conflicted about leaving Germany, Max is in awe?of?his new "home" - here, the heat is thick, the food is grossly delicious, and football and religion-seemingly intertwined-permeate everything. While his parents don't know what to make?of?an Ameircan South pining for the "good ol' days," or the people who live there, shy Max thrives-he makes the football team, goes to church for the first time, and even makes friends. When Max meets Pan in Chemistry class, they embark on a quixotic, strange, and consuming relationship. They tell each other their secrets; Max tells Pan about his witchy powers, Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations?of?a local church. But the?boys?aren't sure whose secrets are darker, or what is more frightening - their true selves, or staying true in an intolerant?Alabama.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / Junot Diaz

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku - the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

D??az immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot D??az as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Chocolat / Joanne Harris

In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat's every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It's a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli / Andrew Sean Greer

We are each the love of someone's life.

So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other. At his birth, Max's father declares him a "nisse," a creature of Danish myth, as his baby son has the external physical appearance of an old, dying creature. Max grows older like any child, but his physical age appears to go backward--on the outside a very old man, but inside still a fearful child.

The story is told in three acts. First, young Max falls in love with a neighborhood girl, Alice, who ages as normally as any of us. Max, of course, does not; as a young man, he has an older man's body. But his curse is also his blessing: as he gets older, his body grows younger, so each successive time he finds his Alice, she does not recognize him. She takes him for a stranger, and Max is given another chance at love.
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Eva Luna / Isabel Allende

Conceived in an embrace designed to comfort a dying man, born to a servant and raised as a hired hand, Eva Luna learns quickly that she has a talent that belies her humble start: the gift of storytelling. As the years pass and her imprudent nature sends Eva from household to household - from the home of a doctor famed for mummifying the dead to a colorful whorehouse and the care of a beautiful transsexual - it is Eva's magical imagination that keeps her alive and fuels her ardent encounters with lovers of all kinds. And as her South American homeland teeters on the brink of political chaos, and Eva's fate is intertwined with guerrilla fighters and revolutionaries, she will find her life's calling - and the soul mate who will envelop her in a love entirely beyond her mystical inventions.

Eva Luna is a literary triumph, a novel brimming with battles and passions, rebellions and reunions - and some of the most exquisite characters Isabel Allende has ever created.

The King of Infinite Space / Lyndsay Faye

Meet Ben Dane: brilliant, devastating, devoted, honest to a fault (truly, a fault). His Broadway theater baron father is dead?but by purpose or accident? The question rips him apart. Unable to face alone his mother?s ghastly remarriage to his uncle, Ben turns to his dearest friend, Horatio Patel, whom he hasn?t seen since their relationship changed forever from platonic to something?other. Loyal to a fault (truly, a fault), Horatio is on the first flight to NYC when he finds himself next to a sly tailor who portends inevitable disaster. And who seems ominously like an architect of mayhem himself. Meanwhile, Ben?s ex-fianc? Lia, sundered her from her loved ones thanks to her addiction recovery and torn from her art, has been drawn into the fold of three florists from New Orleans?seemingly ageless sisters who teach her the language of flowers, and whose magical bouquets hold both curses and cures. For a price.

Latitudes of Longing / Shubhangi Swarup

A sweeping, lyrical debut about the love and longing between humanity and the earth itself, by a major new literary talent from India A spellbinding work of literature, Latitudes of Longing follows the interconnected lives of characters searching for true intimacy. The novel sweeps across India, from an island, to a valley, a city, and a snow desert, to tell a love story of epic proportions. We follow a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who speaks to them; a geologist working to end futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a mother struggling to free her revolutionary son; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who transforms first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents.

Life of Pi / Yann Martel

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?

The Mermaid's Child / Jo Baker

Malin has always been different, and when her father dies, leaving her alone, her choice is clear stay, and remain an outsider forever, or leave in search of the mythical inheritance she is certain awaits her. Apprenticed to a series of strange and wonderful characters, Malin embarks on a grueling journey that crosses oceans and continents?from the high seas to desert plains?and leads to a discovery that she could never have expected. Beautifully written and hauntingly strange, The Mermaids Child is a remarkable piece of storytelling, and an utterly unique work of fantasy from literary star Jo Baker.

The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Raves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude / Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women - brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul - this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

Portrait in Sepia / Isabel Allende

Recounted in the voice of a young woman in search of her roots, Portrait in Sepia is a novel about memory and family secrets. Aurora del Valle suffers a brutal trauma that shapes her character and erases from her mind all recollection of the first five years of her life. Raised by her ambitious grandmother, the regal and commanding Paulina del Valle, she grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by horrible nightmares. When she is forced to recognize her betrayal at the hands of the man she loves, and to cope with the resulting solitude, she decides to explore the mystery of her past.

Portrait in Sepia is an extraordinary achievement: richly detailed, epic in scope, intimate in its probing of human character, and thrilling in the way it illuminates the complexity of family ties.

The Rock Eaters / Brenda Peynado

What does it mean to be other? What does it mean to love in a world determined to keep us apart? These questions murmur in the heart of each of Brenda Peynado's strange and singular stories. Threaded with magic, transcending time and place, these stories explore what it means to cross borders and break down walls, personally and politically. In one story, suburban families perform oblations to cattlelike angels who live on their roofs, believing that their "thoughts and prayers" will protect them from the world's violence. In another, inhabitants of an unnamed dictatorship slowly lose their own agency as pieces of their bodies go missing and, with them, the essential rights that those appendages serve. "The Great Escape" tells of an old woman who hides away in her apartment, reliving the past among beautiful objects she's hoarded, refusing all visitors, until she disappears completely.

The Shadow of the Wind / Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Station Eleven / Emily St John Mandel

An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender,?Station Eleven?tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Underground Railroad / Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned - Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey - hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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