Friday, 19 June 2015

Magic America by C E Medford

Hope lives in an alternative Trenton, New Jersey of the 1980s where radioactive cats, congenital tattoos, biker angels, cocky fairy godmothers and the determination to survive another day are all that stand between her family and the creeping chemical forces of LoboChem, a manufacturer willing to destroy all that is beautiful for the sake of a profit.

Magic America is a story about coming of age in fluorescent, urbo-suburban, magic-realism America. Dust off your Wigwams and your high-tops, your banana clips and Aquanet, for a trip through the streets and skies of a Garden State where love triumphs over fear, faith is what you die with and family is who you ride with.

Goodreads description

Magic America is a fascinating take on magic realism. Set in urban blue-collar America, it reminded me of the magic realism of Paul Magrs, which is set in a similar setting in an northern British city. The two writers show that magic realism can work in the portrayal of the white working class. The magic in the book comes without comment - that's just the way it is in magic America. There's a baby who inherits congenital tattoos from his biker father, and a fairy godmother with attitude appears when Hope needs her and sometimes when she doesn't want her to.

Central to the book is the issue of abuse of the environment by LoboChem, which is poisoning Hope's world and community. As I have observed elsewhere in this blog an environmental theme often features in modern magic realism. C.E. Medford's approach is a interesting one. The reader is not always clear whether something strange is magic realism or whether it is the product of the poisoning of the environment or genetic alteration. This ambiguity is enhanced by the use of first-person narration. Hope is still young when the book opens and we see the world through her eyes. A child's eyes see magic in the world and young Hope is no different. As Hope matures through the book, some things are given realistic explanations and some remain magic.

The author's style of writing is likewise a mixture of realism (sometimes gritty) and poetic prose and it works really well. If I were to criticize, I found the transitions between the different periods in Hope's life jolted and these narrative stutters did not stop me enjoying the book. Chronological transitions can be a problem with coming-of-age stories, one which I am familiar with as an author. Nevertheless I identified with Hope and her extended family of oddballs and was on their side in their battle against evil big business which has stitched up local politics and economics. This is as much magic realism of the oppressed as any novel set in South America.

I received this book free from the author in return for a fair review.

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