Sunday, May 03, 2009

Spicy and Sweet - Book Review

(click on the photo to be taken to the Amazon page for the book)

the Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review here on the blog, but this one I had to tell you about. Expect some more reviews as the month moves on.

“Her potions can heal the sick, calm the vexed, or inflame the heart…But, will she trade all her magical powers for true love?” – From the book jacket.

In my former life, WAY back in my college years, I worked in a book store. Talk about your dream job for an avid reader, working all day long among isles and isles of books. I loved that job.
One of the perks of this job was that once in a while, we’d get our hands on advance copies of books. The other obvious perk was the employee discount, which I used steadily and freely.

From those days, I amassed a tremendous collection of books which have sat for years unread. I have a bit of a book buying addiction, so I continue to collect books at a steady pace, leaving those older books still unread.

Recently, however, in the midst of my decluttering craze, I have forbidden myself from buying any more books until I read some of these older ones just lying around my house in boxes.

And this is how I came to read “the Mistress of Spices”. My copy is one of those advance reading copies. The book, however, was published way back in 1997.

I am glad I waited until now to read it, because I’m not sure I would have appreciated it as much had I read it back then.

This is the tale of a young woman, Tilo, who is not quite from this world we live in. Her past is of a mysterious nature, from a long ago time in a faraway place. But she is trained in the ancient art of the spices, and transformed into the body of an old woman, transplanted into America, to run an Indian food/spice market, and heal the ails of her customers. But even in her old body Tilo maintains a bit of the mischievous spirit of her former young self, and is caught up in a web of getting too close to some of her customers, falling for a handsome American man, and fighting with the urge to break all the rules and give into temptation.

This is a story that is beautifully told, with vivid language and imagery. The reader immediately sympathizes with Tilo, this faulty heroine, and wants to know more about her and those around her. Each character woven into the story fully enriches Tilo’s own story, and yet carries a power all on their own. You want to know Haroun, Getta, Jagjit, Kwesi, and of course, Raven. Raven, he of the mysterious name, and even more mysterious origins. This man Tilo calls “my American” who walks into her store and turns her life inside out. The reader is both fascinated and confused by him. Instantly understanding Tilo’s inner conflict, her pull toward this forbidden fruit, her mistrust of his appearance, his intentions.

There is a certain magic in this novel, and it is not the magic of the spices alone. The words are woven beautifully together, painting a picture that stayed with me even when I put the book down, which I didn’t want to do at any time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, so much so, in fact that I didn’t want to book to end, and felt a certain amount of sadness when I reached the last page. That, to me, is always the mark of a good book.

I give it 4 out of 5 Martini Glasses.

As an added bonus, while trying to find the book on Amazon so I could provide you with a link, I came across this:

Yes, they’ve made a movie. Yes, that is Dylan McDermott. (click on the photo to be taken to the Amazon page for the movie).

No comments: