Magic for Beginners

Magic for BeginnersMagic for Beginners by Kelly Link

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the stories in Link’s second collection are five-star stories. Her fiction is surreal, whimsical, fantastical, childlike in many ways, and yet it often goes to darker places than you’d expect. Put simply, it’s brain food. Her stories light up parts of your brain that don’t normally get lit up. On top of that, she makes it look so effortless with flawless prose and perfect turns of phrase.

However, reading an entire collection of her stories can be an overwhelming feast, or at least it was for this reader. Back to back, the stories meld together too easily and the concepts and tropes that Link frequently draws upon become more noticeable: animals as totems, magical bags that hold anything and everything, people who are dead but don’t behave dead, characters with names that aren’t names like Small and Soap and Germ and Alibi, and third-person POVs that become narrators who speak directly to the reader. Not that these are bad things. Link’s stories never bore, but read all together they can become thematically repetitive, which steals some of their magic.

Still, Link is in a league of her own and these stories are well worth your time and attention. My favorite is probably the title story, “Magic for Beginners,” but choosing a favorite from among these gems is a difficult task and one that’s likely to change every time I think about this stellar collection.

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