Last month our YA book club read The Disappearances, a debut novel by Emily Bain Murphy. It was our first foray into the mystery genre and most of us really enjoyed the on-the-edge-of-our-seat-ness of the novel. The Disappearances was maybe not a typical mystery, as it contained magic, but that definitely didn’t stop us from enjoying it. The novel is well-written, has great characters and made for a fun book club discussion!
Here we’ll recommend some other magical mystery books you might want to try, one that’s considered YA and one that’s not. All the way at the end we’ll leave some discussion questions at the end just in case you’re doing research for your own book club.
A dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss.
Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world.
Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.
Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?
The prequel to Practical Magic is filled with family secrets, magical relatives, and an inescapable curse.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start, Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City, each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.
Discussion Questions for The Disappearances
- Is the book more a mystery or a fantasy novel?
- How enticing did you find the mystery at the heart of The Disappearances? Did you unravel it before the characters? Were things left unexplained?
- What did the historical setting add to the story?
- Did this make you want to read Shakespeare?