Top positive review
62 people found this helpful
on October 1, 2002
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.