Weird Sisters and Others

Witchy women and feminine magic are favorite tropes in literature. They don't always get a fair shake, but in these books that could be filed under magical realism, they tend to come out on top in a (mostly male) world intent of keeping them down. Pull out your favorite throw blanket and curl up on the couch with these stories of gifted women. 

Alice Hoffman has penned a prequel to Practical Magic, her story of a family of witches caught by desire. The new book, The Rules of Magic, tells the story of the aunts of the main characters in Practical Magic. Franny, Jet, and their brother Vincent grow up in mid-century Manhattan with very strict rules to prevent them from being magical; most importantly, don't fall in love. Of course, this all goes out the window the summer they visit their Aunt Isabel in Massachusetts and learn their heritage. There is love and heartbreak aplenty in this tale of becoming what you are meant to be, and Hoffman's lyrical prose makes the magic seem very real.

Adrienne Celt's The Daughters also deals with magic and curses. Lulu is a talented and successful operatic soprano until she gives birth and loses both her voice and beloved grandmother. Lulu delves into her family history of Polish folk magic to discover that the women of her family are musically gifted but pass that on to their daughters at a heavy price. Haunting and moving, this is a story of authentic, flawed women.

Rose is the youngest in an unusual family in Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. She can taste people's emotions in the food they prepare, starting with the birthday cake for her ninth birthday. As she grows up, she becomes an unconventional foodie, and grows closer to her father and her brother, who seems to be on the autism spectrum with gifts of his own. Stylistically complex, this is another book of realistic characters with a touch of hocus-pocus.

The sweep of Spanish history is on display in The House of Impossible Loves by Cristina Lopez Barrio. An Andalusian family is cursed to bear only daughters from absconding men. One of these women gets revenge on her lover by turning the estate he leaves her into a brothel and sets out with her descendants to break the enchantment. Eventually a son is born, but Fate may still have a trick or two up its sleeve. A large cast of quirky, likeable characters drive the engaging plot.

 Got more magical realism with strong female protagonists? Tell us about them in the comments.

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