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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Like Water for Chocolate - My Review

I'm not really certain what all the rage was about regarding this book.

Esquivel is a brilliant writer and she definitely has a great idea in the magical references she makes over Tita's supernatural effect on the world around her as she prepares meals. I am a big fan of magical realism and I love cooking so, when the book opened, I was drawn in in very quickly.

The way I see it, the part of magical realism that works is when a story line carries a thread of believability. It is that ability to explain some phenomenon or event by extraordinary means. It is the ability to offer an alternative explanation for something which may or may not be true. It is the ability to tell a story and continue building on it to the point where the line between reality and fantasy are blurred. Laura Esquivel's story opened with a promising start but her character development fizzled into a world of the preposterous and therefore failed in its delivery.

Esquivel got the magical part down. However, where she fell short was on the realism.

The down side for me is that many of the characters are just plain unlikable. I hated Mama Elena for her selfish domineering nature, Rosario for her insipid nature, Pedro for his being a coward and Tita de la Garza for letting everything from family tradition to blind devotion to the spineless, confused Pedro dominate her life. On the one hand Tita has the ability to effect emotion over vast populations yet, despite such power, she has no power over her destiny.

Pedro is the jerk who didn't deserve to knock Tita's sexual socks off - not only because he 'settled' for her sister but because he he already had a lifetime liaison of sexual conveniences with Rosario that culminated in Esperanza's conception. In short, he got it all by default while good guys - like John who faithfully carried a torch for Tita the rest of his days - rounded out the story being another post-script entry under the category entitled, 'life's beautiful losers.'

Esquivel's magical realism sort of works but she seems to stray more toward magical thinking; a kind of storytelling so fantastic that it lays it self open to dismissal. While Esquivel's writing is reminiscent of Isabel Allende "Like Water for Chocolate" comes across as a pastiche of the genre. Esquivel is no Isabel Allende. I suppose it is because some of the events she describes are so over the top. How can someone knit a 3 hectare blanket?

If I could give half stars, this would be a 2 1/2 star rating. "Like water for Chocolate" didn't work for me because it just wasn't believable or perhaps I should say, it wasn't magical enough.

It was an entertaining story but it sure as hell wasn't uplifting.


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