, Sandra Cisneros's first novel since her celebrated The House on Mango Street
, weaves a large yet intricate pattern, much like the decorative fringe on a rebozo, the traditional Mexican shawl. Through the eyes of young Celaya, or Lala, the Reyes family saga twists and turns over three generations of truths, half-truths, and outright lies. And, like Celaya's grandmother's prized caramelo
(striped) rebozo, so is "the universe a cloth, and all humanity interwoven.... Pull one string and the whole thing comes undone." The Reyes clan, from Awful Grandmother Soledad and her favorite son Inocencio to Celaya, follow their destinies from Mexico City to the U.S. armed forces, jobs upholstering furniture, and to Chicago and San Antonio. Celaya gathers and retells, in over 80 chapters, the stories that reinforce her family's, and subsequently her own, identity as they travel between the U.S.-Mexican border and within the United States. Rich with sensory descriptions and animated conversations and peppered with Mexican cultural and historical details, this novel can hardly contain itself. Also an acclaimed poet, Cisneros writes fiercely and thoroughly, and her characters enter and exit the page with uncommon humanity. Although the book is long--over 400 pages plus a relevant U.S.-Mexico chronology--in many ways it's not long enough. The world of the 20th-century Mexican family, and of the Reyeses in particular, is as complicated, timeless, and satisfying as our own family stories. --Emily Russin
From Publishers Weekly
"Uncle Fat-Face's brand-new used white Cadillac, Uncle Baby's green Impala, Father's red Chevrolet station wagon" the parade of cars that ushers in Cisneros's first novel since The House on Mango Street (1984) is headed to Mexico City from Chicago, bearing three Mexican-American families on their yearly visit to Awful Grandmother and Little Grandfather. Celaya or "Lala," the youngest child of seven and the only daughter of Inocencio and Zoila Reyes, charts the family's movements back and forth across the border and through time in this sprawling, kaleidoscopic, Spanish-laced tale. The sensitive and observant Lala feels lost in the noisy shuffle, but she inherits the family stories from her grandmother, who comes from a clan of shawl makers and throughout her life has kept her mother's unfinished striped shawl, or caramelo rebozo, containing all the heartache and joy of her family. When she, and later Lala, wear the rebozo and suck on the fringes, they are reminded of where they come from, and those who came before them. In cramped and ever-changing apartments and houses, the teenaged Lala seeks time and space for self-exploration, finally coming to an understanding of herself through the prism of her grandmother. Cisneros was also the only girl in a family of seven, and this is clearly an autobiographical work. Its testaments to cross-generational trauma and rapture grow repetitive, but Cisneros's irrepressible enthusiasm, inspired riffs on any number of subjects (tortillas, telenovelas, La-Z-Boys, Woolworth's), hilarious accounts of family gatherings and pitch-perfect bilingual dialogue make this a landmark work.
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