Sometimes there are patterns to my reading choices that I don’t notice until I sit down to write about them. I suspect there’s a lot going on in my subconscious when I decide what to read next, and those subliminal machinations, whatever they are, occasionally dovetail in a lovely way.

Such was the case with two books I read recently that both turned out to be about families with strange powers. Not a topic I’d set out to explore, but something about it must have tickled my brain stem. I’ve learned not to question the serendipity, because most of the time it leads me to great reading!

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard

This is the story of a loving but fractured family with a hefty dose of magical realism thrown in. Johnny Ribkins is in his 70s now, but in his younger years, he was a part of the Justice Committee, a group that used their special talents to bolster the Civil Rights movement. Johnny can draw maps of anywhere, even places he’s never been. His brother could climb sheer walls without any handholds. Now his brother has passed away and Johnny owes the wrong guy a lot of money. In his quest to scrounge up enough money to pay off his debt, he ends up on a road trip with his 13-year-old niece, who has some Ribkins powers of her own.

Funny, touching, and a little offbeat--this book was everything I wanted it to be.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

This book is wacky but with a heart of gold. The Telemachus family once demonstrated their supernatural powers onstage for adoring fans, but the matriarch died young, the three kids are all grown, and no one in the family has found the success those glittery early years promised. Now Frankie is in debt up to his eyeballs, Irene and her teenage son have moved in with her dad, and Uncle Buddy is functionally mute. When one of the newest generation of Telemachuses starts showing signs of latent talent, it might mean that things are finally looking up—or it may signal their total destruction.

The perspective shifts from character to character and the timeline hops from present day to past and back again, but Gregory tap dances through the key changes without dropping any of the plates he’s set spinning. Every time I needed to put the book down to tend to real life, I invariably felt like I was at a crucial juncture. Just a few more pages, please!

I’m tickled that I chanced upon reading Spoonbenders and The Talented Ribkins around the same time. I enjoyed each of them all the more because I was able to compare them as I went. They share the whole “different and at first confusing strands coming together into a glorious ending” thing that I find delightful. (Is there a term for that? There should be!)

Both highly recommended!