Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel)
I’ve known about this book since I was in junior high, but I just read it for the first time. This is pretty surprising, given my obsession with all-things-magical-realism, and this book’s generally recognized status as a work of contemporary magical realism. I think I picked it up once, a long time ago, and was put off by the opening paragraph:
Take care to chop the onion fine. To keep from crying when you chop it (which is so annoying!), I suggest you place a little bit on your head. The trouble with crying over an onion is that once the chopping gets you started and the tears begin to well up, the next thing you know you just can’t stop. I don’t know whether that’s ever happened to you, but I have to confess it’s happened to me, many times. Mama used to say it was because I was especially sensitive to onions, like my great-aunt, Tita.” (5)
The book’s subtitle really says it all: “A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies.” I guess for a not-yet-teenager, it must have been too overwhelming to pick up a book that didn’t fall easily into any given category, like this one. Add to that the fact that I’ve never been (to this day) the most enthusiastic cook, and this opening was certainly a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). But this time around, I breezed through it in less than two days. Esquivel’s writing appears simple, and is very beautiful in its candor.
I’ll admit that my feelings toward Pedro and John were very similar to my feelings toward Edward and Jake (respectively) in the Twilight series: Pedro ticked me off, and I couldn’t understand why Tita didn’t fall madly in love with John and forget annoying, jealous, possessive, immature Pedro. Of course, I’ll also admit that I’m somewhat embarrassed at my own comparison here — I mean, Esquivel and Meyer aren’t exactly on the same level — or even the same plane — are they? Esquivel’s a talented and compelling author, while Meyer is, well…the author of Twilight. Even still, this weird love triangle and its supernatural influences felt too similar to Bella’s love triangle to be ignored.
Despite this striking similarity of emotional turmoil, the novel was really enjoyable. It had all the magic of food and romance that Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen had, but with more heft and heart.