Magical realism by easiest definition is when an author weaves magical aspects into an otherwise realistic story. I would describe it as poetic exaggeration...but exaggeration is the wrong word because it has a connotation of ridiculous. Poetic...amplification? Magnification?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes it as: "...the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness...What was most important was the expression she had on her face. She didn't change her expression at all when telling her stories and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face." Sigh.
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquirel, is the love story of Tita, the youngest of 3 daughters, on whom the family duty falls to remain unmarried and take care of her mother until she dies;though love story in the broadest--and fullest--sense of the word: passion but also the deep love of great friends and the love of food and life and of course, inevitable heartbreak, all tragic and yet beautiful. It is the hints of the fantastical that make Tita's story so beautiful, and ironically enough, more real. Stark realism just isn't enough sometimes. (These old posts explain a bit more fully.)
I would have to quote way more than what is appropriate for a blog post to fully explain why and how magical realism takes your breath away in this story, so it's probably just a better idea to read the book and see the streams of tears, blankets the measure 3 hectares and the visits of ghosts for yourself. I stand fully convinced that everything is better if a little magical.