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Caramelo Hardcover – Unabridged, September 24, 2002
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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
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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
This book is interesting to me on many levels. First, it delves deeply into a complicated family relationship. Many of the themes resonate with me, because they remind me of my own family. My grandparents were immigrants from Italy, and the family dynamics between Italian families and Latino families are so similar. Perhaps that is because of the immigrant experience, as well.
This book explores those relationships against the backdrop of a Mexican family that emigrated to the U.S. So intertwined with family themes are all of the struggles of adapting to and living in a different country..specifically, Latino/Mexican struggles.
In order to explore these themes, the writer goes back in time as the granddaughter of the family, trying to learn more about her family's past.
I really loved this book for it's study of familial relationships, as well as it's focus on one Latino family's experience in the U.S.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Latino culture, the experiences of immigrants, as well as anyone who also has complicated family relationships and seeks to understand these more.
The book keeps your attention, and is very funny and entertaining in many parts, as well.
I hope she continues to write such excellent humorous stories. I laughed for hours with this book. Thank you, Sandra
Sweet sweeter, colors brighter, the bitter more bitter.
Tin sugar spoon and how surprised the hand feels because it's so light.
If you leave your father's house without a husband you are worse than a dog.
Only people you love drive you to hate.
The book also reflects upon the transformation of the city and appearance of a new milieu.