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I’ve unexpectedly stumbled upon two scenes of magical realism in the novel “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.” This fat book by David Wroblewski details the life of Edgar Sawtelle, a boy who was born without a voice to parents who raise a special breed of dog. Edgar, who can hear just fine, speaks to his dogs in sign language. The story is high on tension and intrigue while covering the mundane aspects of breeding and raising dogs. (I’m not using mundane in a negative way, there. The intrigue juxtaposes nicely against the daily life of the kennel.)

Edgar’s dad, Gar, dies unexpectedly in the course of the story. I’m not giving anything away with that because it says this on the flap text. During one of the scenes of magical realism, Gar appears to Edgar in the form of coalescing raindrops and communicates information about the nature of his death.

In a later scene, Edgar visits a small general store near his house and the creepy woman behind the counter, Ida Paine, grabs his hands and has some kind of a vision related to Gar’s death that she relates to Edgar.

Both of these scenes are slipped into this otherwise realistic novel in such a way that the magic of the described events is perfectly normal. This is magical realism. (Wikipedia has a long description of magical realism, its history, practitioners, and comparison with other genres.)

Magical realism in novels squares well with the magical realism displayed in real life. Out-of-body experiences (my husband had one once while listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”), premonitions (when I was a teenager I dreamed that Duran Duran was going to release a single – not an album – and the next day heard an announcement that Duran Duran was releasing the single “Wild Boys”), hauntings (a friend and her daughter regularly experience the presence of spirits), and other unexplained “woo woo” phenomena happen to most of us at some point in our lives. We don’t typically try to explain them, but accept them for what they are, use them as a point of curiosity with friends, and move on with our lives.

I love this quality in real life and when authors drop in into their fiction. I’ve used it myself in “Greenville,” with one character, Monroe Dobbs, being able to cure people through sound, and another, Miss Fortune, being able to read past lives. I don’t try to explain these phenomena or question whether they are “real;” I treat them as normal within the realm of the book.

Have you experienced events in your life that are magical or unexplainable? If so, tell me about them in the comments.

If you’re a writer, do you use magical realism in your work? If so, how?