Welcome to the world of new magical realism books. First, what is magical realism? A quick summary of magical realism, as a sub-genre, is literature that takes place in a realistic setting with magical, mystical, or supernatural elements. Modern magical realism novels explore facets of the mundane alongside the fantastical. Contemporary fantasy and magical realism are easy to confuse because of their similar settings and sprinkles of magic. Contemporary fantasy builds a world, with a system for its legends and magic. In magical realism and fabulism novels, supernaturality has no explanation. The absurdity of magic in an average world acts as critique of reality.
Born out of protest of injustice, with Latin American classics like One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits, magical realism continues to be a sub-genre dedicated to the family saga. Family sagas are full of ghosts, and in magical realism, some of those ghosts are real. New magical realism novels continue to explore themes of love, grief, control, and hope. Inherently political, magical realism is an important modern storytelling form. There are so many wonderful books that cross between fantasy, magical realism, fabulism, and related sub-genres, but these eight books will get your updated magical realism reading list started!
Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore
A decade after stage magician Violet Volk literally disappeared, her sister Sasha is still dealing with the aftermath and her grief. When podcaster Cameron Frank begins to dig into Violet’s story, Sasha is disturbed by bizarre sleepwalking episodes. As Sasha faces her past, Cameron gets closer and closer to the truth about Violet. This book has just enough inexplicable magic to keep it a mystery, and it is awesome as an audiobook.
Chlorine by Jade Song
Competitive swimmer Ren Yu lives for the water, always striving to be better, swim faster. Obsessed with fairytales of sirens and mermaids dragging sailors to the ocean floor, Ren secretly longs to become a mermaid herself. To become a mermaid and belong to the water, Ren will do anything.
Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova
When her son Santiago dies, Magos is so overwhelmed with grief that she cuts a piece of his lung and cares for it. Soon, the lung becomes a conscious carnivorous Monstrilio. Told in four parts, this novel explores the darkness of love and grief.
Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim
Sophie, a new matchmaker, is tasked with pairing up successful couples or risks losing her special gift. She quickly makes friends with the “Old Ducks,” a friend group that has been meeting for decades. Sophie and her new friends share snacks, jokes, and heartbreak as she works to find them love before the red threads of fate fade away from sight.
The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng
Born into a Singaporean fishing village, Ah Boon expected a quiet life. Instead, he was given the miraculous ability to see and move islands that no one else could see. Fueled by a sense of destiny, Ah Boon is willing to give up everything for his hope for the future. This atmospheric novel is a sweeping family saga and tender love story in the face of imperialism and war.
Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Flor always knows when someone will die; it’s her gift. When she invites her scattered family to a living wake, nobody knows who’s death Flor has seen. Her sisters are ready to address pains of the past, while the younger cousins are taking their first steps towards their futures. This family saga is a woven rug of family history, as they face their past and future together.
The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer
To grow up, sisters Sasha and Zora must grow apart. Witnesses to their father’s cruelty and infidelity, and their mother’s illness, reserved and determined Zora finds escape in writing, while tough and outgoing Sasha finds solace in her new relationship. Family secrets and ghosts get shaken awake by a sudden revelation. Told by an omniscient narrator, this novel is woven through with familiar folk tales and universal themes.
Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur
Particle physicist Elsa Park is stationed in the Antarctic, where she think she’ll be safe. Elsa’s childhood imaginary friend makes a spectural appearance in the snow, sending a warning. After decades away, Elsa returns to her childhood home, getting reacquainted with the ghosts and demons her mother always told her about. This haunting family saga is layered with myth and history.