Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like Water for ChocolateLike Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Esquivel has created a succulent book stuffed with romance and drizzled with fantastical happenings. Her unnamed narrator takes us through the life of Tita De la Garza, whose brilliance in the kitchen is legendary. Tita struggles against the restrictions tradition and family place on her. Her longing for love and desire to be a whole person are an undercurrent to the delicious cooking she does. She shares a recipe per chapter. The story is told in monthly installments but takes place over decades, giving a sense of connection across generations and tying the beginning to the ending, but also reinforcing how little life varied on a daily basis. One April hardly differed from another. But when they do! Esquivel speckles the plot with magical occurrences: meals that spread the cook’s emotions to all who partake. A woman lights a rustic outdoor shower on fire with nothing but lust. Chickens make a poultry hurricane. Overall the whole novel has a tone of distance – akin to someone recounting a memory – that makes the few disturbing parts easier to handle and imparts a sense of peace to the plot. Speaking of disturbing parts: sensitive readers should be aware of a few things. The ranch setting means some scenes of animal butchering/castration, though they are very rare. There are a couple of rapes, which are not described, and the use of slapping/beatings (also not described) as a disciplinary tactic. And a teensy bit of slut-shaming. Standard for the pre-automobile era. Like Water for Chocolate is equal parts passionate, wonderful, and surreal. So satisfying. Like any good meal.

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