Saturday, May 21, 2011

Like Water for Chocolate

In May my book club read Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances,and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel. I was actually the one who chose the book this month - since I had never read it, but always wanted to, I picked it. Every month people joke that they are sure that when it's their turn to pick the book they are going to pick the 'sex' book. But have no fear ladies because I picked the sex book! Well to be honest, although it was very much about sex, I think it was more about passion and repression. Set in turn-of-the-century Mexico Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, owner of the de la Garza ranch. Tita falls in love with Pedro, but Mama Elena will not allow them to marry, since family tradition dictates that the youngest daughter remain at home to care for her mother. Instead, Mama Elena orchestrates the marriage of Pedro to Tita's eldest sister Rosaura. Tita is forced to make the wedding dinner and the cake for her sister's wedding, and she pours her emotions into the task. And so as the guests eat the cake they are filled with her sorrow and all burst into tears. As the story goes on Tita continues to cook her emotions into the food - resulting in a lot of mayhem. Including her sister Gertrudis being so filled with a hot passion and desire that she evaporates water, sets the shower stall on fire, and ends up working in a brothel just to quench the passion Tita's food ignited. Tita's unrequited love for Pedro survives the Mexican Revolution, the births of Rosaura and Pedro's children, even a proposal of marriage from Dr. John.

It was interesting discussing this book at book club, as I was reading it at first I wasn't sure if there would be that much to talk about. But there really was a lot of depth to the characters and the story. In general, I think, we all liked it. I would recommend it to others for their book clubs. But it definitely isn't a book that I will reread. I think I just find the story too frustrating! I take for granted the freedoms I have as a woman in this day and age and so it's hard to tolerate reading about such a level of repression. But not only that - just stupid decisions! I think Pedro was an idiot and he never should have agreed to marry Rosaura, even if he saw it as his only way to stay close to Tita. I'm sorry but marrying my sister is not that way to stay close to me. And Rosaura! What kind of sister are you knowingly marrying your sister's love?? I know that it was a different time and they were all trying to do what their parents and tradition expected of them. But wouldn't it have been better if Pedro had a little more backbone and just took Tita off and eloped? I know that when Gertrudis ran off Mama Elena disowned her and said that she was dead. But who cares about that. Mama Elena was a two-faced beast - especially once we found out her shady back story, you'd think she would have more compassion. Ultimately of the three sisters Gertrudis was my favorite. Despite the fact that she broke tradition and was disowned, she seemed to have an amazing life. She married the man she loved and she was a strong, powerful woman in a time that women were extremely oppressed. Everyone in my book club loved Gertrudis. She was such a renegade.

In the end, Tita does manage to break the bonds of tradition, if not for herself, then for future generations. However I found the ending slightly unsettling, especially when she was eating the candles to capture the heat. It was a very Romeo and Juliet sort of ending. And the last chapter skipped so far ahead in the story that it threw me off for a minute. But I did love that Rosaura's daughter, Esperenza was able to get married despite the tradition of youngest daughters taking care of their mothers, and in fact she married Dr. John's son. I really did love Dr. John and although I knew that Tita had all that passion for Pedro, I couldn't help pulling for Dr. John. I loved how he saved her and brought her calm, and I wanted her to want that for herself. But that's life, we don't always get what we want. And that's pretty much how this story went. Though it had a warning to all - once you do get what you want be careful not to let it take you over.

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