Around the World With Magical Realism: Asia

Well, this is it. We have come to the end of May which means we have come to the end of Magical Realism May Mondays. I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling around the world through books! For our final trip, we are heading to Asia.

Asian magical realism uses magic and mysticism sparingly to tell series stories of family and culture. If you aren’t sure you love fantasy and just want to dabble in magic while reading a realistic, thought-provoking story, these books might be perfect for you!

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: An intelligent, character-driven, and richly detailed story of a boy whose fate is linked to that of his nation.

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Tilo learns the secrets of spices and uses this magic to change the lives of her customers in this beautifully moving and lyrical novel drawing elements from fable.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: Exit West tells the bittersweet and urgent story of two people struggling with love during a civil war. Hamid has written a powerful story, using elements of magic to make the difficulty of the subject both approachable and heartbreaking.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore follows a young runaway and an elderly wanderer as they embark on seemingly unrelated journeys that eventually collide. This is a reflective, mystical, and fiercely imaginative story emphasizing the surreal.

Slow Boat by Hideo Furukawa: Hideo Furukawa is often called “the heir of Haruki Murakami,’ and he lives up to that name in this lyrical and humorous story of a young boy trapped in his country and struggling to find himself.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: This is an intricate, original, and irreverent story of twin siblings at the center of a family heading towards destruction. Told in beautiful and dreamlike prose, The God of Small Things’ subtle dose of magical realism is a feast for the senses.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan: A lyrical and clever tale of magic following three generations of women locked in a battle of jealously.  Setiawan’s story takes place in a mystical land inspired by his native Indonesia that perfectly punctuates the viciousness of the characters.

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran: An engaging, upbeat, and heartwarming story of three Iranian sisters who flee Iran and open a magical cafe in Ireland that brings a divided community together.

Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup: A series of loosely interconnected stories explore the relationship between humanity and the Earth in this lush, haunting book.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo: In this dramatic, atmospheric tale, a dance-hall girl in 1930s Malaysia is drawn into unexpected danger by the discovery of a severed finger that is being sought by a young boy who would protect his master’s soul.

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan: Tackling themes of loyalty, family, and connection, this is a lyrical, ambitious novel about a young woman who can see ghosts and her half-sister whose life is haunted by those ghost stories.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan: After her mother’s suicide, Leigh follows a mysterious red bird to Taiwan where she digs into her family’s past in this haunting, moving novel.

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada: Three Japanese factory workers find themselves increasingly drawn into their work as the factory slowly expands in this bleak, atmospheric story.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi: At an odd and magical Tokyo coffee shop rumored to give patrons the chance to travel back in time, four customers reevaluate their lives in this moving, engaging book.

The City of Good Death by Priyanka Champaneri: The manager of a death hostel shepherds the dying into a “good death” while his own past refuses to let him go in this amusing story with vivid prose.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar: Thirteen-year-old Behar narrates from beyond the grave this mystical, richly detailed story of her family’s life and escape from Tehran.

Wild Boar in the Cane Field by Anniqua Rana: Found and raised by two mothers in a Punjabi village, an orphaned girl struggles for acceptance in this bleak, lyrical tale with a strong sense of place.

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen: A candid, haunting collection of stories depicting the diverse lives of Chinese people striving for better futures.

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan: Combining history, satire, tragedy, legend, and humor, this is an atmospheric, violent novel following an Indonesian sex worker and her daughters.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim: In this engaging, atmospheric story, Natalie inherits her grandmother’s restaurant in a San Francisco Chinatown neighborhood and is tasked by a seer to prepare three recipes to help her struggling community.

Once and Forever by Kenji Miyazawa: Teeming with magic and wonder, this is a witty, offbeat collection of experimental stories taking place in a rapidly changing Japan.

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino: Three men break into a general store seeking shelter and step into the role of the shopkeeper who devoted his life to offering advice in this thoughtful, sparkling tale.

Book of Kane and Margaret by Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi: This inventive, lyrical novel follows dozens of avatars of Kane Araki and Margaret Morri through different lives as they inhabit the World War II Japanese internment camp in Gila River.

She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha: The mesmerizing and magical stories of three nameless characters in India weave together in this evocative novel.

The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh: Following Alu, a master weaver in a small Bengali village who flees his home after being falsely accused of terrorism, this is a witty, intricately plotted story brimming with eccentric characters.

Shadow Theatre by Fiona Cheong: After fifteen years in the United States, Shakilah Nair returns home to Singapore where she reconnects with women in her neighborhood, all of whom believe in the power of seen and unseen spirits.

Do you have any favorites from this list of Asian magical realism? Any titles that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Published by Kristi

Hi there! I am Kristi, a book obsessed human with strong opinions. Join me as I read across genres and do the work to find you the best of the best books.

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