She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
A great execution of modern magical realism and historical fiction, Wayétu Moore’s debut novel She Would Be King (Graywolf, $26) is a powerful story of oppression, resistance, and freedom. Moore reimagines Liberia’s early years with her three vibrant protagonists who each have supernatural abilities. Gbessa, a girl from a West African village named Lai, was born on a day her people considered a curse. She is labeled a witch, and is subsequently ostracized throughout her upbringing. However, it is when she is left for dead that she realizes that she is different: she cannot die. June Dey was born on a plantation in Virginia to parents that have lost everything trying to protect fellow slaves. He is gifted with superhuman strength which allows him to escape. Norman Aragon was born from a forced relationship between an enslaved Maroon woman and British colonizer studying in Jamaica. He is able to fade from sight, a power he inherited from his mother. The three find each other in Monrovia, a settlement in West Africa and must navigate the establishment of their new home as they search for the family and freedom they’ve always wanted but were denied for most of their lives.