As part of our Best Books of 2011 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits mixes beliefs from multiple religions and cultures to tell the story of Marina, a rather reluctant heroine. Her search for spiritual peace is continually interrupted by the parade of battered souls who seek refuge in her home in the San Fernando Valley, and caring for them (not without some cursing about it along the way) leads her to a new type of spirituality altogether. López’s gift lies in the creation of her characters, whose voices are so distinct and well-drawn that their troubles feel less like plot points and more like the true events that happen to each of us every day. It’s a touching book–and not without some biting humor!