30+ Magical Realism Books to Read Now

magical realism books

Magical realism is one of my favorite book genres because it seamlessly weaves magic into everyday life. Some people call this genre fantasy-light. When we were looking through our list of fantasy books, we were more than a little bit surprised at how many books fit into our magical realism book list.

What is magical realism? Well, in this list, you will not find faeries or vampires, hidden magic schools, or new worlds. The magic is woven into the story so realistically, that it leaves you wondering could it happen? Did it happen that way? What you will find, is a list of books that we have read and loved.

Table of Contents

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2023 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

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Magical Realism Books

Best of 2024 // Favorite Books // Literary Fiction // Celebrity Book Club Picks // Family Drama // Books about Books // Award Winning // Short Stories // Historical Fiction

House in the cerulean sea and other magical realism books

What Makes a Book Magical Realism?

The most important thing that makes a book magical realism is that it is set in the real world with an undercurrent of magic. Magical realism books will initially seem to be realistic fiction but will soon blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

One of the most well-known examples of magical realism is the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Best Magical Realism Books of 2024

the book of doors

The Book of Doors: A Novel by Gareth Brown

Cassie works in a bookstore in NYC. When one of her favorite customers dies, she finds the book he was reading with an inscription leaving it to her. It’s the Book of Doors which allows Cassie to open any door and go anywhere she wants to – London, Paris, or any door she can picture in her head.

Soon, she is approached by a stranger named Drummond Fox, a librarian for a collection of books just like Cassie’s telling her she’s in danger. People have searched for The Book of Doors for years and will do anything to get their hands on it.

Now, Cassie finds herself entwined in a dangerous game of cat and mouse as she tries to stay alive and keep the Book of Doors away from those who want it for nefarious purposes. #gifted

Why I Loved it: OMG. I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book. It is unlike anything I had ever read and I loved every minute of the story! I loved I had to think about how the doors would work and how the story comes together in the end.

Find this book in Books About Books / Magical Realism Books to Read Now / Books about Bookstores / Summer Reads 2024 / Best New Fantasy Books

Expiration Dates

Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle

Every time Daphne meets a new man, she receives a slip of paper with his name and number on it. That number is the exact amount of time they will be together. She is waiting for the day. She will receive a piece of paper with just a name and no expiration date.

When Daphne finally meets Jake on a blind date, there is only a name, she wonders if this is her soulmate and how her other relationships would have played out if she didn’t know the ending.

Rebecca Serle has written two of our favorite books from the past few years and every book she writes is more creative and unique than the last. This book did not disappoint. #gifted

Recipe for Charmed Life

Recipe for a Charmed Life by Rachel Linden

Georgia May Jackson is a sous-chef in Paris hoping for a big promotion where she will be the head chef at a restaurant. When she loses her boyfriend and sense of taste in one night her dreams seem like they may be gone forever.

She has no choice but to take time off and travel back home to Seattle with the hope of finding herself, her sense of taste, and her sense of purpose.

Georgia also had a way with flavors and her dishes had a way of making people feel while eating. As she heads home, she realizes that this may be more than just a gift for flavors.

Why I Love It: I loved “The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie” and was so excited to read this book. It lived up to all my expectations and more. This is a sweet romance that will leave you smiling. #gifted

Find this book in Magical Realism Books / Books About Food / Enemies-to-Lovers Romance Books / Romance Books 2024

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Favorite Magical Realism Books

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Rebecca Serle has done it again with this book set in Italy. Katy’s mother, Carol, has died and left Katy to take their trip to Positano alone. When Katy leaves she is uncertain about everything and whether she will return to her marriage.

Then, the impossible happens, and Carol appears at Katy’s hotel. She is in perfect health and thirty years old. She is not the woman Katy thought she knew. As she gets to know her mother, she realizes more about herself.

Why I Love It: This is a beautiful, well-written book with a touch of magic. I loved how Katy and Carol are able to develop a relationship in Italy after Carol died. It is unique and wonderful.

Find This Book In: Contemporary Fiction / Book Set in Italy / Book About Grief / Best Magical Realism Books / Books About Mothers/ Books Set on a Beach / Book Club Book

One Hundred Years of Solitude and other Oprah Book Club List Books ranked.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

January 2004 Oprah Book Club Pick

This multi-generational family saga is about the Buendiá family and their hometown, the magical Maconda. It’s a comedy, a tragedy, and it looks at the rise and fall of the town’s founding family.

For the record, I read this book BEFORE Oprah picked it! We spent a semester learning about this family saga in high school. Each person was assigned a symbol to report on throughout the book each week.

Mine was goldfish -part of the symbolism of amnesia and the duality between amnesia and nostalgia. Yep. I still remember the lesson. Maybe the teaching contributed, but this remains one of my favorite books ever.

Find this book in Kirsten’s Favorites / Magical Realism Books / Classic Books

the House in the Cerulean Sea

House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

Linus Baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage isolated on an island where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. 

Linus is sent to determine if the children are being cared for properly. Linus, who lives his life by the book, will have to look deeper to try and find the real answers to his questions.

Why I Love it: This story was so much more than the sum of its parts. I felt like I had met each of the children in the story. Even though the story has magic, it somehow seems completely relevant to our society now. The magic and the orphan aspect are all reminiscent of Harry Potter.

Find this book in Magical Realism Books / Feel-Good Books / Book for Book Club / Books About Friendship / Cozy Reads / Books With Color in the Title / Best Beach Reads

the invisible life of Addie Larue

Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Where do I start? I love this magical realism book so much. The prose are beautiful, the story is so clever and the audio narration from Julia Whelan is perfect. ⁣

⁣Addie LaRue is trying to escape a life of marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love. She makes a deal with the devil to live a life free and unknowingly gives away the ability to be remembered by anyone.

For three hundred years people forget her the minute she is out of sight until she meets Henry. I loved this magical realism book from the first sentence. It’s a total must-read.

the magic strings of frankie presto

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Album

As full cast audiobooks go, this book about music is the best one I have ever listened to. This magical realism book is also one of my favorite books of all time.  It is narrated by “music” who is telling the story of a magician named Frankie Presto. 

There are multiple people who narrate this book and it is more like a play.  I could listen to this contemporary fiction book over and over so it no wonder that it is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved this book and bought a copy which I lent to an unnamed person who loved it and did not return it.  My second copy has met the same fate.  Third time’s a charm?

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Beloved and other magical realism books

Literary Fiction Books with Magical Realism

life of pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When a boat sinks in the Pacific, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, an orangutan, a hyena, a Bengal tiger, and a zebra. And while this book was written less than 20 years ago, it is already a modern classic.

This is not a sailing novel that once read can be forgotten. I know that some people look at the story as an extended metaphor in which each animal represents a person but personally, I like the book exactly the way it was written, one of the best magical realism books I have read.

There is magic in the pages of this book in all meanings of the word. First, read this book, then, rethink everything. This is a perfect example of a thought-provoking book because no two people view it the same way. If you are looking for animal fiction books, this one is a must.

the book thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a magical realism book that is narrated by Death. And in this haunting magical realism book, he tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents and learning to read from stolen books.

She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA historical fiction book, this book is fiction at its finest and is a must-read from our list of WWII books for kids. This is one of my favorite thought-provoking books.

beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

HOW HAVE I NEVER READ TONI MORRISON BEFORE? I swear I thought I had read this book, but after reading The Toni Morrison Book Club, I realized I hadn’t. When my library hold finally came up for this one, I realized I was so excited to read it.

Morrison is easily one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read. Beloved, which is based on the true story of a runaway slave, haunted me while I was reading it. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Find this book in Magical Realism Books / Best Classic Books / Books about Motherhood / Ghost Books

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Celebrity Book Club Picks with Magical Realism

Family Lore

The Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

August 2023 Good Morning America Book Club Pick

This is the first adult book from National Book Award Winner Elizabeth Acevedo, whose YA novels we devour. #gifted

It’s about the women in a Domenican-American family, their special gifts, and the bonds they share with each other. It starts off with Flor, who has the ability to know the date of people’s death, informing everyone that she wants a living wake.

As her family grapples with what that means, Acevedo explores each woman’s special gift and how it has impacted their lives.

I was fascinated by the magical realism elements of the story, but it was the depth of the characters that drew me in. Rich in culture and exquisitely written, this family saga wove a magical realism story I never wanted to end.

the other black girl

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

June 2021 GMA Book Club Pick

Wow. I’m still processing this genre-defying novel. It’s a social commentary and a thriller all in one. It makes me want to sit down and discuss it with everyone.

Nella is the only black girl at her publishing house until Hazel is hired. Thinking she’s found an ally, instead, she begins to wonder if Hazel might be an enemy instead.

As Hazel’s career soars, Nella is left questioning her identity, her ideals, and what it means to be a black woman in the business world while trying to uncover who is behind the scary notes she keeps receiving.

The Scent Keeper

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

February 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I snagged a copy of The Scent Keeper because Reese Witherspoon told me I should. I did not know that this celebrity book club pick would be a magical realism book.

I usually love her picks and this was no exception. I’ve seen many mixed reviews on this one, but for me, it was a reflective read about what is means to be loved, and the memories that scents hold. And with a touch of magic, this book hit the mark.

The premise of a little girl, Emmeline, growing up on an isolated island learning about scents had me picking up the book, but the hard-life lessons she learned along the way kept me flipping the pages.

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The Immortalists and other magical realism books

Magical Realism Books with Family Drama

miniscule mansion

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges

This is easily one of the most unique magical realism books I’ve ever read. Myra Malone blogs about a dollhouse mansion and has thousands of followers. But the mansion is more than it seems as rooms disappear and reappear overnight.

Across the country, Alex is shocked to see someone recreating the rooms of his home in miniature form. Alex and Myra correspond to determine their connection and in the process feel a pull to each other.

the Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

What would you do if you knew the day that you were going to die? Would want to know?  The four Gold children find out the information that will shape their lives in this amazing magical realism book.

Beautifully written, the Immortalists follows Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya through their lives.  Ms. Benjamin does a superb job of creating different voices for each of these characters. They are so vivid and unique.  This family saga book about grief is un-putdownable and stays with you long after you have finished reading the last page.

If you want to host an Immortalists book club, we have a post that will help you make it spectacular.

Nothing to see Here and more family drama books

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

November 2019 Read by Jenna Book Club Pick

There is so much that I love about this family drama novel.  It is such a feel-good book that is more than what it seems.  It is well-written and funny and made our top books of 2019 list.

This magical realism book is about a woman who becomes a nanny for two children who start on fire when they get mad.  There is wonderful humor in this book that is centered around strong and beautiful relationships.  I cannot recommend this family drama story highly enough.⁣

Life after Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and died before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues.

Ursula lives her life over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story. As she grows, she grapples with family life and WWII. This unique story is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Why I Love It: This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is a family drama, historical fiction, and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.

Find this book in Best WWII Books / Books Like the Time Traveler’s Wife / Magical Realism / Time Loop Books

Shark Hear

Shark Heart: A Love Story by Emily Habeck

The best thing about magical realism stories is how utterly unique they often are. Take Shark Heart – the magical element in this book is that some people can get a genetic disorder that will turn them into an animal later in life.

Lewis and Wren are head-over-heels for one another, but disaster strikes in the first year of their marriage when Lewis is diagnosed with a rare disorder that has him turning into a Great White Shark. As Wren and Lewis try to navigate the diagnosis and how his life, and their love, will change, we also learn about Wren’s childhood through dual timelines.

Breathtakingly original, I can’t wait to read whatever Habeck cooks up next. What a fantastic debut.

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Romance Books with Magical Realism

The Seven Year Slip

The Seven-Year Slip by Ashley Poston

Clementine has had her heart broken one too many times. She has inherited her beloved aunt’s apartment and is constantly mourning her loss. When she comes home one day and finds a man sitting there, she realizes that he exists seven years in the past.

And, the more time they spend together, the more she realizes she is falling for him. But she can never figure out when their paths will collide! This is a fantastic pick if you are looking for romantic comedy books.

Dead Romantics (GMA Book Club Pick July 2022) was one of my favorite books last year and this book did not disappoint! This is such an adorable time travel romance book and is perfect for our ultimate beach reads 2023. I needed to include it in our list of adult fantasy novels as well! And if you are not a fantasy lover, you can definitely call this a magical realism book!

on fire island

On Fire Island by Jane L Rosen

I absolutely adored this magical realism book. It is a delightful magical realism book. Do not let the fact that it is a paranormal book throw you off if this is not your usual genre. The book is narrated by Julia Moore, a book editor who died at thirty-seven.

She follows her husband to Fire Island, her happy place, to spend one last summer with him and their friends on the Island. I absolutely loved this book. This is a powerful story about love, friendship, and happiness. It is one of the best picks for Ultimate Beach Reads 2023. This paranormal book is a heart-warming, feel-good book rather than spooky or creepy.

vanessa Yus magical Paris Tea Shop

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

Oh, how I loved this matchmaking book. ⁣What could be better than a love story set in a Paris tea shop with a little magic sprinkled on top? This magical realism book is not a complicated or unexpected story.  But what it is, is delightful, fun, and lighthearted. ⁣

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s future in tea leaves and spent her entire life fighting it.  She also knows that this “gift” will stand in the way of having a successful relationship because she cannot stop blurting out truths whether she wants to or not. 

When Vanessa’s aunt offers to bring her to Paris to hone her skills and get her life in order, Vanessa goes.  As she finally gets to experience Paris, she wonders if she can change her destiny as well. When it comes to matchmaking books, this one is a favorite! And be sure to check out our delectable books about tea.

in a holidaze and more Christmas romance books

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Do you love Christmas movies? Are you obsessed with Christmas Romance books? Do you need to swoon? ⁣ If you answered yes to any of those questions, stop everything and order In a Holidaze. This is possibly my favorite Christmas novel of all time and was a must for best holiday books. ⁣

I adored Mae and Andrew’s love story. It’s set up like Groundhog’s Day with Mae repeating the same Christmas vacation until she gets it right.

Why I Love It: This is a time travel romance at its best. And man… does she get it right.⁣ Peppermint kisses, sexy sledding, snowball fights, Christmas Tree trimming… this book oozes cheer-filled holiday goodness with a few scenes that are steamier than a cup of cocoa.⁣

Find this book in Time Travel Books / Best Books of 2020 / Magical Realism / Time Loop Romance Books

beasts of

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance: A Novel by Ruth Emmie Lang

This book is a magical love story that is reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups.  I could not put it down.

Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves and this is not the only way that he is not like other people. He has a connection to animals and nature that manifests when he least expects it. Unlike any book that I have read, this book with a touch of magical realism makes it all the more special.

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The Midnight Library and other magical realism books

Magical Realism Books About Books

Mr. Penumbra

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

This book was not what I was expecting.  There was a lot more mystery and action than I thought and a little more magic as well.  The characters developed and changed and the story moved quickly. 

This was a light and enjoyable magical realism book.  When Clay takes a job in a bookstore, he thinks he will be selling books.  He doesn’t realize that the “wayback” of the store is more like a library to an elite group of readers.

Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore is exactly the type of store that you will never want to leave.

Why We Love It: This is a book about a bookstore which is always something to love, but this book has puzzles to solve before you can understand why the bookstore is so special.
Find This Book In Books About Puzzles / Books About Bookstores

The midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

October 2020 GMA Book Club Pick

The story is about a library with books filled with the infinite possibilities of the lives not lived.  Have you ever wondered about a choice, or a path not taken?

When Nora finds herself in the library she is forced to face the choices that she made in her life- relationships, education, profession…

Why I Love It: I loved Matt Haig’s last book and was so excited to read this one. This is a magical time travel book and I loved every minute of getting to know Nora’s paths untravelled. Matt Haig is a master of magical realism.

Find this book in Time Travel Books / Books about Books / Time Loop Books / Magical Realism / Best Books of 2020

The starless sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgensternir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=a21b6da7b1e904bee65ffc4cce1d99c3& cb=1575161583926

To say that I was excited about Erin Morgenstern‘s new book might be the understatement of the year.  How to describe this book that is an ode to storytelling…..it’s a love story to books, a fantasy within a love story within a fairy tale.

The writing is beautiful- Erin’s signature style of vivid imagery left me completely captivated. I truly loved every minute of this book. It was pointless to predict the story. So, I let it take me away with the lyrical prose.

Find this book in Books Like The Night Circus / Full Cast Audiobooks / Magical Realism Books / Books About Librarians

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Award Winning Books with Magical Realism

the underground railroad by colson whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

August 2016 Oprah’s Book Club Pick

I loved this book and it was one of the first reviews we ever did on the blog. I love the way this book examined the underground railroad with a touch of magical realism. If you are looking for thought-provoking books, look no further.

The story is about Cora and Caesar, two run-away slaves in the South who run away to the underground railroad which, in this book, is an actual railroad.

Each stop along the way is reminiscent of a different place in history and it is interlaced with actual ads placed for runaway slaves. This book is profound and beautiful and a must-read.

sing unburied sing


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This book is an award winner and the writing is undeniably wonderful. The story itself has elements of magic that add to the difficult subject matter.  It deals with drugs, violence, and poverty- all of which are completely relevant in today’s society. 

Why We Like It: The characters did not develop throughout the story as much as I would have liked, but this ghost book is a worthwhile read when considering the wonderful writing. The paranormal aspect makes this a great book for fall.

Find this book in Fall Books / Jazz Age Books / Ghost Books

echo

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The story is three tales woven together in one with a magical harmonica at the center. The story follows a harmonica as it lands in the hands of Freidrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California.

Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one story that is amazing for middle grade and adults alike. Each child has their own adventure but the end brings the three stories together in a beautiful way.

Why We Love This Book: I listened to this feel-good book and it blew me away. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience. In our opinion, this story is best in audiobook format. 
Appropriate for ages 10-12
Find this book in
World War II Books for Kids / Magical Realism Books / Books for 13-Year-Olds / Audiobooks for Kids / Novels About Music

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Land of Big Numbers and other magical realism books

Magical Realism in Short Stories

benjamin Button


The Curious Case Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitgerald

I listened to this one while doing the laundry the other night. It’s only an hour long but I really liked it! I liked it so much that I was frustrated that it wasn’t a full-blown novel. That’s my problem with short stories. They are never satisfying enough! This one revolved around a man who aged in reverse – born as a 70-year-old and ending his life as a newborn.

The land of big numbers

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen

This short story collection is utterly captivating. Te-Ping Chen vividly showcases life in China and its nuances, political and otherwise. Some stories are straight fiction while others have a touch of magical realism. My favorite involves a new fruit that inspires strong emotions in the eater. ⁣

Each story is engaging and could lead into a book of its own. It’s a wonderful debut from a writer known for her work as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.⁣ 

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The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

This collection of short stories was a thought-provoking delight. Within the pages of each story, Evans was able to shine a spotlight on racism through the lens of history and how it shapes American culture.

Why I Like it: The titular novella was my favorite of the bunch. It gave me chills and had me thinking it was over too soon.

Find this book in Short Stories / Magical Realism

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Historical Fiction Books with Magical Realism

The London Séance Society

The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner

I was so excited about this new book written by the author of The Lost Apothecary, a book on our Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction Books, and this newest book did not disappoint!

In 1873, The Seance Society is looking for answers about the death of their leader and turned to a renowned spiritualist for help. Out of loyalty and obligation, she leaves Paris and returns to London with her trainee, a woman seeking answers about her dead sister.

If you love magical realism books, this book is a perfect pick. The story takes twists and turns and kept me turning the pages. It was just too good not to include it in our list of best fantasy books for adults as well. If you are looking for a great fall read, this one is for you.

Ten Thousand Doors

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow

I’ve never read a book quite like this and I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. The writing is subtle, the plot is driven by character and intrigue rather than action-packed suspense. It also has a feel of historical fiction about it. Lovers of this genre may love this book as well. 

When January is seven years old, she stumbles upon a door that leads her to a different place.  When she is reprimanded for lying about the door, she eventually forgets about it until she finds the book “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” years later.  January becomes intrigued and the real story begins. 

The story alternates between the story of January and the book.  The concept is such a fun way to narrate the plot. At times, the plot moved a little bit slowly as one storyline stopped and another began in the alternating chapters.  This is such a unique and wonderful magical realism book and is a must-read from fall books.

once upon a river

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield has been a must-read author for me since I first read The Thirteenth Tale. Her latest was just as captivating, with a bit of magic and mystery mixed in.

When an almost drowned child is found in the river, three separate families lay claim to her. This story is filled with drama, love, and loss. The story is compelling, but the writing is spectacular and it is a magical realism book that is a must-read.

the miniaturist

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This historical fiction is also a story of love and betrayal. When Nella arrives at her new home with her new husband, he presents her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home.

He also introduces her to the miniaturist who gives her the freedom to decorate however she wants with extraordinary tiny creations that are so much like their real-world counterparts. This is one of the magical realism novels in which the magic is subtle, yet you will not forget this book.

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What is your favorite magical realism book?

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. Also loved “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obrecht and “The Wive’s Tales” by Alix Wilbur