I do not have an issue with magical realism in books; in fact, I enjoy it. Isabel Allende and Sarah Addison Allen both use it — in very different ways — to add spark and dimension to their novels. Alice Hoffman’s Illumination Night, by contrast, seems weighed down by it — or maybe that was just the utterly depressing story.
“He fell in love with the way she closed her eyes, long before he fell in love with her.”
In Martha’s Vineyard, we’re introduced to a collection of either dull or pitiful characters, all of whom constantly make bad decisions. For instance, the teenager Jody who is sent to live with her grandmother, who recently tried to “fly” out of a window and won’t admit she’s going blind. Jody sneaks out, hooks up with boys, and fantasizes about the married man next door. Said married man fantasizes right back, while his wife slowly goes mad and refuses to leave the house. There’s a giant who’s trapped in his own home, while townspeople taunt him. And a little girl gets hit by a car.
Strewn throughout all of this are the little magical touches that in a Sarah Addison Allen novel would light up the scenery and characters. Here, they just threw the more depressing aspects into stark relief.