Forget what I just wrote about magic realism. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is magic realism done right, in that it is magical and it is real, and one informs the other rather than the two stopping each other from working together. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to summarize the book without using the term magical realism, and yet the back cover manages to do so very elegantly. It is a story of the Nomeolvides women of La Pradera. In fact, they often use the expression “Nomeolvides women” that I knew the word must have had meaning, but I couldn’t remember it while I was reading the book and figured it out afterwards: Forget-me-nots. Of course!
So it’s a book about flowers and says so in the Acknowledgements section of the back of the book, but it’s not just about flowers, nor is it simply about magical realism. Instead, this is a story about tolerance and acceptance and safe space, and while it may all seem a little airy (there are some middle sections that appear a little long), the book gets away with some pretty daring sections for a Young Adult book, if indeed, this is what the book can be classified as.
Wild Beauty is a book about how women fall in love too deeply that their lovers vanish. But when a strange boy named Fel appears, Estrella finds him and tries to bring him up to speed with his past and where he is now. To be honest, the story coming to mind is Pinocchio, and while there is a mention made of lying and possibly of a nose growing, it didn’t feel like an apt comparison. This is a story that is all its own, and while it has some familiar beats, and the rhythm makes it something unclassifiable, it is what it sets out to be, a Wild Beauty. It’s a story about magic and flowers and yet has some beautiful passages that reveal so much more than this.
Wild Beauty was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.