When I go on trips, I make sure to put some audiobooks on my Kindle. I can’t really read in the car. Looking down at a page for longer than 20 minutes or so always makes me feel vaguely ill, but I can slip in a pair of earbuds, stare out the window, and listen to a story unfold, no problem.
Before our trip to see family last month, I browsed Amazon for a long time before settling on a book I kept encountering in search after search: Incendiary Girls, by Kodi Scheer. The description of this collection of short stories kind of threw me, at first. Several of the stories apparently incorporated some heavy, Kafka-esque elements of magical realism, according to the reviews, and I waffled. I love magical realism at such heights as Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Rushdie’s Midnight’s Chilldren, or even Castillo’s So Far From God. Notwithstanding, I sort of shy away from suggestions of magical realism, because it can be a very tricky thing to execute. It must be excellent or bust.
I’m happy to say that Incendiary Girls was excellent! Scheer incorporates the fantastical and the illogical in perfect balance, folding these dazzling elements into the lives of her protagonists in such a way that the reader (at least this reader!) never once had to suspend her disbelief. The many lovely and sometimes macabre implausibilities in Incendiary Girls mirror the female characters’ struggles to makes sense of some of the all-too-mundane aspects of their lives, becoming almost extensions of those difficult circumstances.
More importantly, the magical realism never once inhibits the reader’s empathy. Scheer’s stories are all of our stories, really, in that they deal with themes we can all relate to. Insecurity, fear and anxiety, loneliness, grief. More than once, I was crying. In the car! Along with my two sons in the backseat, who were OVER IT, after three hours on the road.
If you have a chance to pick up this book, I highly encourage you to do so!