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Caramelo Paperback – September 9, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Caramelo, 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

With the ability to make listeners laugh out loud with her humor, get lumps in their throats with her poignancy and leave them thinking about her characters long after they've hit the stop button, Cisneros is a master storyteller and performer. Her sweeping tale of the Reyes family, with the charmingly innocent Lala Reyes at its center, moves from 1920s Mexico City and Acapulco to 1950s Chicago, all the while grounding the family's whimsical events with "notes" to help readers understand the greater significance of, say, a nightclub singer who snagged Lala's grandfather's heart or the Mexican government's initiative to build a network of highways throughout the country. Cisneros (The House on Mango Street) reads her flowing text in an often ebullient voice, recounting the sights and sounds of Mexico City's boisterous streets or performing one of the many grand-scale arguments Lala's parents have. Her voices are marvelous. She perfectly portrays the Awful Grandmother's bitterness (the old lady loved to remind her son, "Wives come and go, but mothers, you have only one!") and sweetly croons the birthday songs Lala and her brothers sing to their father. This is a treat of an audio, combining a fantastic narrative with an equally excellent reading.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679742581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679742586
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships .

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Exhibiting a humor that is at once Mexican, American, and Mexican-American, Sandra Cisneros tells the story of an immigrant family that is as universal and yet particular as these stories are. Lala Reyes is the seventh child of the family and the only girl. They live in Chicago, where her dad and his two brothers run an upholstery shop. There are cousins (my favorites are three brothers named Elvis, Byron, and Aristotle), looong caravan-style car trips to Mexico City to visit the Awful Grandmother, and some snooping into the past by Lala.
The Awful Grandmother was once a girl called Soledad, whose father was a dyer of rebozos, the traditional Mexican shawl, and whose mother was renowned for her intricate knotting of the fringes. All that remains of their art in the family is a rebozo with unfinished fringes, a caramelo, a shawl dyed in stripes the colors of caramel, licorice, and vanilla which appears around the shoulders of generations of women.
The plot winds and circles, often ending up in surprising places. "Caramelo" is a long book, but it could have been longer--many of the minor characters are unfinished and there's a sense that Cisneros had such a wealth of stories to tell that she simply could not stuff them all between these covers. The writing is so bright and fine I would have been happy to spend another hundred pages with the Reyes family.
My sole quibble with "Caramelo" is the extensive use of Spanish words and phrases. If readers do not speak Mexican Spanish, will they miss the full flavor of the novel? Would we be as willing to accept a book peppered with this much Hungarian or French? I would hate to think that some readers would find this a turn-off and feel excluded from Sandra Cisneros' rich and delightful story.
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Format: Hardcover
CARAMELO, the gorgeous new novel by Sandra Cisneros, begins with a portrait taken on a summer trip to Acapulco, one of those spontaneous group shots offered by photographers who comb the beach to record memories, real or manufactured. All of the members of the Reyes family are there...all except for Lala, the youngest, forgotten a few yards away as she happily makes sandcastles. And so Lala spends the rest of the book painting a portrait of her own.
It's impossible not to love an author who names her characters "the Awful Grandmother," "Aunty Light-Skin" and "Uncle Old." Cisneros's warm, wry humor has been on display since THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET, and in her latest blended book (equal parts American and Mexican influence), she ensnares us again. This is Lala's story, first and foremost, but it's also the story of so many other things --- of growing up in two cultures, of growing up in general, of family life and daily upheaval, of class and racial strife. The Reyes family travels south to Mexico City each summer to spend time with Inocencio's parents, his heavy-handed mother and henpecked father. Thirteen running, screaming kids caught between the Chicago culture of their daily lives and the Mexican roots of their parents. Three daughters-in-law left to stew in their own juices when mama's around. One hundred reasons why, we soon learn, everything is not OK.
We watch things unfold through Lala's eyes, even the things she was not there to witness. She is an always-precocious narrator. Of Aunty Light-Skin's secretarial job, for example, we're told that she wears beautiful cocktail dresses and high heels, and is picked up each day by her big-shot boss. Lala overhears her mother and aunts' ridicule, but does not spell out the details.
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Format: Hardcover
Clearly, Sandra Cisneros is a genius! This is one of the best books I have ever read. The story is completely engaging and I really fell in love with the characters. The writing is out of this world, in a word it is exquisite. The story is a multi-generational tale of a family who is Mexican-American. I am attracted to books that tell a story of a culture I am unfamiliar with and then after reading such a book I am very interested in people of that culture. This is such a book. Along with that it is just a great, great read. Do not hesitate to get this book, and if you have a chance to see Sandra Cisneros at a reading do whatever you need to to get there, she is wonderful in person, funny, warm, and engaging. This book gets my highest recommendation! I am lucky to have read it.
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By A Customer on November 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found the story good, but not riveting--when I could find it.
All the descriptive prose and Spanish phraseology were a distraction. I realize the author was painting a (very big) picture of sights, sounds and smells etc. but it often seemed to me that the thread of the story was buried in all that description. Anyone who knows a fair amount of Spanish and knows idioms and colloquial sayings would not find that element to be a problem. True, some meanings could be understood from the contxt or the explanation, but even with Spanish dictionary in hand it was too much for me. I finally just skipped it, but felt this caused me to lose a lot of appreciation for the story.
The writing didn't flow for me and I kept wishing the story could have been told in a more straightforward way.
I would like to suggest translations in () to assist non-Hispanic readers. The Spanish languge is beautiful and knowing more of what I was reading would have added a lot.
Let me also say that I own and have read the authors other books and love them greatly. I also found them to be much edgier and the writing does flow, or maybe soar would be a more apt description!!
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