Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CARAMELO by Sandra Cisneros

Celaya, Lala for short, born in Chicago to a family with 6 sons, narrates this quasi-autobiographical novel that spans several generations of her Mexican heritage. My biggest difficulty was distinguishing the parents from the grandparents from the great-grandparents. Certainly one character stands out, and that is Lala's paternal grandmother, Soledad, known as The Awful Grandmother, who assists Lala in the chronicling of her family's history. There is definitely bad blood between Soledad and Lala's mother, Zoila, who has stolen Soledad's oldest and favorite son. Lala's father and his two brothers are upholsterers who leave their jobs every summer to make the trek to Mexico City to visit their parents. The pivotal event is a side trip to Acapulco. The book opens with a photo made in Acapulco and closes with a revelation that The Awful Grandmother made to Zoila during a whispered conversation on that trip. When The Awful Grandmother moves in with Lala's large, boisterous family after The Little Grandfather dies, the feud heightens, and the family moves to San Antonio. Lala becomes increasingly restless as a teenager and has to fend off harassment from schoolmates. By this time, The Awful Grandmother is providing solace and advice from the grave and helping Lala to accept her father's counsel that family, not friends, will come to your aid when you're in trouble.

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