Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

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Magic for Beginners

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It is easy to relate to all of the characters in each of Kelly Link's stories in the book Magic for Beginners. However, at any moment, one character jumps from speaking the truth to elaborating on a fantasy world with a story inside the story.

Link's first story, “The Faery Handbag,” sets the tone for an adventure by telling the story of her grandmother Zofia using words from her fantasy home land of Baldeziwurlekistan in a game of Scrabble. Zofia's memory is kept alive through the memory of a handbag with various special qualities.

Most of the other stories include some form of awkward relationship among the main characters as they deal with uncertainty, ranging from Batu and Eric working the lonely late hours of an all-night convenience store, deriving great joy from Charley's visits with her dogs in “The Hortlak,” or Henry and Catherine's hopeful transition from city life to suburbs in “Stone Animals.” While these characters deal with very real life situations, Link includes a twist in each story, mentioning zombies, witches, the Devil, and ghost dogs, each becoming real enough to change the way each character lives their life. One story describes a cannon that possesses wisdom and shares its history to inform about life.

Characters draw from memories of the dead and even reach out to the Ouija board to communicate with their long lost loved ones. The story “Magic for Beginners” creates a land of multiple layers of realties. Each individual draws support for their problems from their friends, and their friendships are developed and cemented by a television show called The Library.

Link's stories are both charming and dark, giving layers of enjoyment to her readers.