Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni

book 9 of 9 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge
book 3 of 11 for the Summer Reading Challenge

To read the novel Mistress of Spices is to experience an aspect of Indian culture that is steeped in mysticism while, at the same time, learning of some of the current struggles among the Indian-American community.

Tilo, a young woman in an old woman’s body, owns a shop where she sells much more than cinnamon and fennel. Her almost spiritual calling as a “mistress” grants her fragile access to the dreams and worries of those who frequent her store – for better or worse. She knows which spices will help heal or give courage, but, in her position, she must remain emotionally detached for the spices to work their magic – and having her own love is completely against the rules.

Those temperamental spices!! They are a forceful character In the book – demanding and exacting – finicky and powerful. Tilo converses with them while trying to convince herself that she is “helping” in the best way and for the right reasons.. A deep sense of age-old magic and wisdom winds through the text – a foreign history that shapes the Tilo and those she interacts with.


My only complaints about the book are these: Tilo’s “forbidden” love takes a bit of getting used to (how can a young, hip high roller really fall for an old gnarled grandma??) and the ending felt like a bit much – the spices can truly control all the elements of nature??

**spoilers over**

Despite those things mentioned above, the book was very engaging and I always wanted to keep reading. The book brings together the magic of the past with the pain and unfulfilled dreams of the present. If you can suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to float along the tide of magical realism in The Mistress of Spices – you’ll get an engaging plot with an interesting taste of Indian culture.


bethany said...

I watched this movie, and it was quirky, but good. Have you seen it? I have this book and was planing on reading it at some point, but I just couldn't not read your spoiler! I know at least that in the movie, the mistress of spices is not an old lady, she is the same age as her motorcycle riding, rocker crush. I was surprised that in the book she is older! I will have to read this and see what changed in hollywood/bollywod :)!

Beastmomma said...

This is one of my favorite novels; I have not seen the movie.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

How interesting that the spices are such big characters! I've been wondering about this one for a while, I may have to add it to the huge TBR list. I was wondering about the movie but saw some bad reviews, so maybe I should skip it and just read the book.

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