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Caramelo

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Every year, Ceyala "Lala" Reyes' family--aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers--packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Every year, Ceyala "Lala" Reyes' family--aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers--packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when she starts telling the Awful Grandmother's life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life. Like the cherished rebozo, or shawl, that has been passed down through generations of Reyes women, Caramelo is alive with the vibrations of history, family, and love.


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Every year, Ceyala "Lala" Reyes' family--aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers--packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Every year, Ceyala "Lala" Reyes' family--aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers--packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when she starts telling the Awful Grandmother's life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life. Like the cherished rebozo, or shawl, that has been passed down through generations of Reyes women, Caramelo is alive with the vibrations of history, family, and love.

30 review for Caramelo

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    I never ever wanted this book to end. It's like Cisneros wrote about my life and told it to make fun of it with me and then to appreciate it together. This had our car trips back to Mexico from CA not Chicago (Michoacan not Mexico City) with all the food and candy involved. I miss this memory now as an adult. I really don't know if anyone that isn't Latino or knows about the Mexican experience will understand or get this but it is worth the laughs. I loved her chronological timeline of Mexican hi I never ever wanted this book to end. It's like Cisneros wrote about my life and told it to make fun of it with me and then to appreciate it together. This had our car trips back to Mexico from CA not Chicago (Michoacan not Mexico City) with all the food and candy involved. I miss this memory now as an adult. I really don't know if anyone that isn't Latino or knows about the Mexican experience will understand or get this but it is worth the laughs. I loved her chronological timeline of Mexican history at the end of the book and her hilarious educational footnotes. This is one of the best books on my culture I have read, from the dramatic hateful love to the superstition. I'd love to gush about Sandra Cisneros all day but I think you get it.....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    One of my top favorite books of all times. And not because Latina discourse is The Thing right now; I think most people never really get past the first 50 pages (including those academics who should know better) because it's challenging and -- I believe -- helpfully marginalizing to the Anglophone reader. The plot is circuitous, anti-teleological, and thoroughly rasquache in the political sense of the term. This could be the best Chicana novel, defining the new Chicano experience, a perspective One of my top favorite books of all times. And not because Latina discourse is The Thing right now; I think most people never really get past the first 50 pages (including those academics who should know better) because it's challenging and -- I believe -- helpfully marginalizing to the Anglophone reader. The plot is circuitous, anti-teleological, and thoroughly rasquache in the political sense of the term. This could be the best Chicana novel, defining the new Chicano experience, a perspective refreshingly divergent from the old-school Chicano machismo and looking instead toward a new identity, a new narrative.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    I enjoyed this Mexican-American family story rather more than I expected to, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for selecting it for a group read. Cisneros is a poet who is not as well known on this side of the Atlantic. Those who like to understand every word of a novel will find this a frustrating reading experience if, like me, they have never been taught Spanish. The text, particularly the sections set in Mexico, is liberally sprinkled with Spanish and Mexican dialect words and ph I enjoyed this Mexican-American family story rather more than I expected to, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for selecting it for a group read. Cisneros is a poet who is not as well known on this side of the Atlantic. Those who like to understand every word of a novel will find this a frustrating reading experience if, like me, they have never been taught Spanish. The text, particularly the sections set in Mexico, is liberally sprinkled with Spanish and Mexican dialect words and phrases, and while many are translated or partially explained afterwards, many are not. For me this did not seriously affect my ability to follow the story or understand the nuances of the Mexican characters. Another minor frustration is the number of sometimes lengthy footnotes, which appear at the end of the chapters, which means finding them is a little disruptive to the reading flow. The book is largely about the nature of truth, fiction and "good lies" particularly in the way they relate to the telling of family stories. In the first part we meet the narrator Celaya (known as Lala) on her large family's annual summer drive from Chicago to Mexico City to visit her paternal grandparents. The "Awful Grandmother" is in some ways the dominant character in this part of the book, which is wonderfully described and often funny, building to a dramatic confrontation on Acapulco between Lala's mother and grandmother. In the second part an older Lala is still the narrator, as she tells the family story starting with the grandmother's parents, the last in a line of manufacturers of rebozos (fine-spun shawls) of which the Caramelo is one of the most popular designs. The grandmother's rebozo is one of her most treasured possessions. Her story is essentially a tragic one, and at times she interrupts Lala's version, usually to demand something happier. In the final part the story moves to Lala's teenage years, and follows their father's ultimately failed attempt to break away from the Chicago upholstery business he runs with his two brothers by buying a ramshackle house and starts his own business using money from the grandmother.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    Although at times I got a little lost in the different threads involved in this story, overall I loved reading about the Reyes family and their summer visits to the narrator's grandmother's house in Mexico City. The Awful Grandmother, she is called. Why? Eventually, in the middle part of the book, we learn the answers to that question, and I for one had much more sympathy for her after that. Slowly, over the course of the entire book, we see our narrator growing up, learning who she is and who s Although at times I got a little lost in the different threads involved in this story, overall I loved reading about the Reyes family and their summer visits to the narrator's grandmother's house in Mexico City. The Awful Grandmother, she is called. Why? Eventually, in the middle part of the book, we learn the answers to that question, and I for one had much more sympathy for her after that. Slowly, over the course of the entire book, we see our narrator growing up, learning who she is and who she wants to be, all thanks to the family she sometimes wants so much to get away from. There were many details in the book that I would not have understood as completely if I had read this before I spent eight years living in Mexico. I actually feel a bit homesick right now. I need to go watch an old black and white Pedro Infante movie or maybe dig up my stack of old Spanish language comic books that I bought from the guy in the local book bazaar. Comic books that came out once a week back in the old days, and that the Awful Grandmother herself used to read and save. I need to explore this author's other titles!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Like all chronic mitoteros, [a word that might mean something like a nosy person—delving into others’ business] los Reyes invented a past, reminding everyone that their ancestors had been accustomed to eating oysters with mother-of-pearl forks on porcelain plates brought over on the Manila galleons. It was a pretty story and told with such fine attention to detail, neighbors who knew better said nothing, charmed by the rococo embroidery that came to be a Reyes talent.” Cisneros has given us an e “Like all chronic mitoteros, [a word that might mean something like a nosy person—delving into others’ business] los Reyes invented a past, reminding everyone that their ancestors had been accustomed to eating oysters with mother-of-pearl forks on porcelain plates brought over on the Manila galleons. It was a pretty story and told with such fine attention to detail, neighbors who knew better said nothing, charmed by the rococo embroidery that came to be a Reyes talent.” Cisneros has given us an epic in three parts. Part one is easy to fall into. The young girl Celaya’s impressions of her family--particularly on their road trip from Chicago to Mexico to visit her father’s mother--were both unique and universal. Part two is a bit more challenging. We get factual footnotes mixed with family history, a history that sometimes molds itself to the needs of different family members. In part three, it all comes together as Celaya begins to grow up, discovering truths about life and her family along the way. I found this part very insightful. “Father says the army will do Toto good, make a man out of him and all that shit. But what’s available to make a woman a woman?” “Listen sweets, it’s simple. You’re the author of the telenovela of your life. You want a comedy or a tragedy? If the episode’s a tearjerker, you can hang yourself or hang in there. Choose.” Are the family stories truth or fiction? Does it matter? Life is hard. It’s harder in some places than others, for some people more than others, but none of us comes through unscathed. When times are hard, it helps to remember our history—to wrap ourselves in it the way members of the Reyes family wrap themselves in the Awful Grandmother’s intricately crafted shawl, her caramelo rebozo. I know from my own experience how comforting these family stories are. I also know that once a family member is gone, their stories matter more than the truth of their lives. That’s just a fact.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Pinborough

    Through the main storyteller Celaya, Cisneros has created an epic Chicana novel that deals with issues of laguage, class, race, gender, family, and being on the border of two cultures. She also brings into consideration the issue of truth-telling versus story-telling. Are they mutually exclusive? If the story is a lie should it matter? These issues only make the story more thought provoking. My favorite aspect of the book is that it deals with the formation of the young female identity. "How bef Through the main storyteller Celaya, Cisneros has created an epic Chicana novel that deals with issues of laguage, class, race, gender, family, and being on the border of two cultures. She also brings into consideration the issue of truth-telling versus story-telling. Are they mutually exclusive? If the story is a lie should it matter? These issues only make the story more thought provoking. My favorite aspect of the book is that it deals with the formation of the young female identity. "How before my body wasn't my body. I didn't have a body. I was a being as close to a spirit as a spirit. I was a ball of light floating across the planet. I mean the me I was before puberty, that red Rio Bravo you have to carry yourself over. I don't know how it is with boys. I've never been a boy. But girls somewhere between the ages of, say, eight and puberty, girls forget they have bodies. It's the time she has trouble keeping herself clean, socks always drooping, knees pocked and bloody, hair crooked as a broom. She doesn't look in mirrors. She isn't aware of being watched. . . . There isn't the sense of the female body's volatility, its rude weight, the nuisance of dragging it about. There isn't the world to bully you with it, bludgeon you, condemn you to a life sentence of fear. It's the time when you look at a young girl and notice she is her ugliest, but at the same time, at her happiest. She is a being as close to a spirit as a spirit" (433-34). Although the hybrid Spanish/English language Cisneros uses is alienating to her Anglo readers (as it is intended to be), everyone can relate to the humanness of this story--its depth and breadth, its messyness, and its triumphant moments.

  7. 5 out of 5

    E

    This book was definitely worthwhile, but Cisneros seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the task of composing an entire novel. She has many, many gorgeous lines strewn about the book tied to swift dialogue and gripping mini-stories, interrupted by simply cute moments, but the plot and her point are rather blurry if not craggy. She seems to be able to create enough momentum for a certain scene, but she doesn't give much reason for what all the scenes have in common. And while it is an obvious t This book was definitely worthwhile, but Cisneros seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the task of composing an entire novel. She has many, many gorgeous lines strewn about the book tied to swift dialogue and gripping mini-stories, interrupted by simply cute moments, but the plot and her point are rather blurry if not craggy. She seems to be able to create enough momentum for a certain scene, but she doesn't give much reason for what all the scenes have in common. And while it is an obvious tribute to her own coming of age in a fascinating family, the end is unbearably schmaltzy - especially the last line. It is disjointed and directionless in all the ways "The House on Mango Street" is not. Since I absolutely loved said novella and "Woman Hollering Creek," I can't help but wonder if her greatest talent lies in shortstories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ana Ovejero

    A significant feature in Sandra Cisneros's novels is the colourful language, the unforgettable characters and the unique settings. Her stories are narratives about strong women, the ones who struggle their whole lives to make the people they love happy. In this book we find the protagoniast 'Lala' Reyes and her family crossing the border between their homes in USA to Mexico, where Little grandfather and Awful grandmother wait for them. During those summers, we see the relationship between the chil A significant feature in Sandra Cisneros's novels is the colourful language, the unforgettable characters and the unique settings. Her stories are narratives about strong women, the ones who struggle their whole lives to make the people they love happy. In this book we find the protagoniast 'Lala' Reyes and her family crossing the border between their homes in USA to Mexico, where Little grandfather and Awful grandmother wait for them. During those summers, we see the relationship between the children and the adults, the tales the latter told the little ones when they ask questions about their family history. When Lala tries to understand the story of Awful grandmother, she enters into the land of unbelievable stories, unreliable fantasies, sophisticated lies and intriguing lives. A multigenerational narrative that makes the reader question their own past and how the identity of their family and, at the same time, their own shelves was created.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I really loved this book, and I was completely surprised that I did. When I'm handed a book and the summary from the person giving it to me is prefaced by "well, it's really slow at first...", let's just say I don't have high expectations. I can be a lazy reader, but this book was completely worth the investment. I happened to read it on a quiet weekend and I think that's exactly what you need. A few hours to delve into it and I was hooked. Cisneros' writing is vivid and spare, but never pretent I really loved this book, and I was completely surprised that I did. When I'm handed a book and the summary from the person giving it to me is prefaced by "well, it's really slow at first...", let's just say I don't have high expectations. I can be a lazy reader, but this book was completely worth the investment. I happened to read it on a quiet weekend and I think that's exactly what you need. A few hours to delve into it and I was hooked. Cisneros' writing is vivid and spare, but never pretentious or obvious. I really liked the short chapters that didn't necessarily flow chronologically. It made me pay attention and get my bearings at the beginning of each little story, and then sink into the vignettes that so happened to all connect together. All I can say is - give yourself a vacation or a rainy day to start this book, and you won't be disappointed. I've really never read anything like it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gina Gwen

    I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to read it because I would get through a chapter (all chapters are very short) and have to reminisce about my own personal experiences. Cisneros brings to the forefront issues that many Latinas face. Annoyance of metiche family members and crazy tales they tell, but also a deep love for family. She sprinkled in Spanish words I hadn’t heard in years, that I grew up with but I just don’t hear in Austin. I did realize I am a "Texican"…ha ha, I’m no I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to read it because I would get through a chapter (all chapters are very short) and have to reminisce about my own personal experiences. Cisneros brings to the forefront issues that many Latinas face. Annoyance of metiche family members and crazy tales they tell, but also a deep love for family. She sprinkled in Spanish words I hadn’t heard in years, that I grew up with but I just don’t hear in Austin. I did realize I am a "Texican"…ha ha, I’m not quite Mexican, but I’m not really a full American either (and I mean culture-wise, not citizen/legality-wise). This is just about the only book I have read that really hit home to my own experiences, to my life. If you enjoyed this book, I would recommend “How to be a Chicana Role Model” and “Chicana Falsa” by Michele Serros.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Reading this book is like gulping a shot of high octane espresso. The writing is incredibly vivid and full of energy, sometimes it leaves you almost breathless. Caramelo is the story of a large Mexican-American family, covering several generations. Told from the point of view of Lala, the youngest daughter, we travel from Mexico City to Chicago and then to San Antonio, Texas. Along the way, we learn the story of Lala's grandparents, parents, and finally Lala herself. This book bursts with life, Reading this book is like gulping a shot of high octane espresso. The writing is incredibly vivid and full of energy, sometimes it leaves you almost breathless. Caramelo is the story of a large Mexican-American family, covering several generations. Told from the point of view of Lala, the youngest daughter, we travel from Mexico City to Chicago and then to San Antonio, Texas. Along the way, we learn the story of Lala's grandparents, parents, and finally Lala herself. This book bursts with life, sometimes requiring the reader to slow down in order to fully appreciate the crowded canvas.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jez

    If i could give it 10 stars I would. I loved it. Felt like home. Like hot cocoa and a tamal at Cafe Tacuba. I agree with another reviewer here, that the format will make or break it for you. But there is something about that pace, the long and the short, the truth and the better-than-the-truth, that is embedded in not only her writing, but the chicana/mexican culture as well. It doesn't straddle the border--the long road between Chicago and D.F., it is the border. That spot where things come tog If i could give it 10 stars I would. I loved it. Felt like home. Like hot cocoa and a tamal at Cafe Tacuba. I agree with another reviewer here, that the format will make or break it for you. But there is something about that pace, the long and the short, the truth and the better-than-the-truth, that is embedded in not only her writing, but the chicana/mexican culture as well. It doesn't straddle the border--the long road between Chicago and D.F., it is the border. That spot where things come together but never meet.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie (That's What She Read)

    4.5 . I loved this book. There were so many parts of this book that I really connected to. She just really captured so many little mannerisms and quirks that I see in my own abuela, like the small superstitions that are sprinkled into everything. "Don't put your purse on the floor! It's bad luck!" I also loved how the dialogue was written as a literal translation from Spanish into English, "I have sleepy," and the Spanish terms of endearment like My Sky, My Queen, My Life. There was just so much a 4.5 . I loved this book. There were so many parts of this book that I really connected to. She just really captured so many little mannerisms and quirks that I see in my own abuela, like the small superstitions that are sprinkled into everything. "Don't put your purse on the floor! It's bad luck!" I also loved how the dialogue was written as a literal translation from Spanish into English, "I have sleepy," and the Spanish terms of endearment like My Sky, My Queen, My Life. There was just so much about this that felt so familiar. . This book is separated into three parts: the first part follows Ceyala as a child and her family's trip one summer from Chicago to Mexico City to stay with the "Awful Grandmother" for a few weeks. The second part is Ceyala's history/biography of her grandparent's lives and how they met, and the last part follows her family's move from Chicago to San Antonio. I enjoyed the vignette chapters as we go through the different sections. In the latter parts of the books we also get interruptions from the Awful Grandmother as she corrects Ceyala's rendition of her origin story. A great coming-of-age story and family saga. .

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I borrowed Caramelo from the library in order to read it for a book club. I'd read The House on Mango Street years ago for a class, but what little I remember is that I wasn't especially impressed - but then I'm not even entirely sure I didn't just skim the book; it was one of those classes where you could get away with that kind of thing. Caramelo is the chronicle of several generations of the Reyes family, Mexicans recently transplanted to Chicago. The story is narrated by Celaya (Lala), the yo I borrowed Caramelo from the library in order to read it for a book club. I'd read The House on Mango Street years ago for a class, but what little I remember is that I wasn't especially impressed - but then I'm not even entirely sure I didn't just skim the book; it was one of those classes where you could get away with that kind of thing. Caramelo is the chronicle of several generations of the Reyes family, Mexicans recently transplanted to Chicago. The story is narrated by Celaya (Lala), the youngest daughter of the oldest son, and it illustrates the idea that the threads of life are so closely interwoven that every little side story of every member of one's family impacts one's own life. Thus, the novel is told in mini-chapter vignettes, some as short as a single page, which jump backward and forward in time. I wanted to like Caramelo. Sandra Cisneros is a good storyteller, it's just that her story doesn't go anywhere. The book is over 400 pages long but doesn't really start to feel like a coherent story till the last hundred pages or so. There are moments where the book is really ON - when Inocencio is in prison with the ventriloquist, when the Grandmother reappears while her son is dying in the hospital - but they're few and far between. Most of the time it just seemed like little anecdotes that more often than not didn't propel the story toward anything in particular. Part of the problem is that the book is separated into three sections with very distinct tones. In the first, Lala is a child, remembering her family's trips to Mexico in her youth. In the middle, the focus shifts to Lala's grandmother, who interrupts the narrative repeatedly to point out all the ways Lala is being untrue to the story. I found the addition of the grandmother's voice to be distracting and unnecessary; I know Cisneros wants to make it clear that the art of storytelling involves lies and fabrications, but I didn't need to be bludgeoned with it for a third of the book. The final third focuses on Lala's teenage years, and this is the part of the book I found most engaging. Lala has a distinct voice and she focuses on a coherent stream of events, finally making me able to understand and sympathize not only with her character, but with other characters in the story as well. I feel like I didn't begin to get to know the characters until this last stretch, and I kept being surprised with revelations at the last minute ("oh, Lala and her mother don't get along with each other?") that really weren't made clear in the first three hundred pages of the book. It was useful for me to read this book at this particular point in my life, because I've just begun taking Spanish classes, and Cisneros uses a lot of Spanish words and phrases in her text. I also enjoyed that part of the book was set in Chicago - I could recognize street names and locales, which made the book feel a little more personal. However, those are little details that make the book more interesting for me - on the whole, the book is too long and meandering (with no ultimate sense of satisfaction or purpose) that I wouldn't recommend it very strongly.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Soriano

    I love Sandra Cisneros. And this family narrative is another reason why she is one of my favorite authors. Exploring the untold stories of the familia Reyes, she takes the reader on a journey that is intertwined with stories that are fictional and real. Stories that remind you of a folklore that can only be told by grandparent and great grandparents; the magical realism that exist in the pueblos of Mexico that tries to make sense of wars, conquest and religion. And that in making sense of what i I love Sandra Cisneros. And this family narrative is another reason why she is one of my favorite authors. Exploring the untold stories of the familia Reyes, she takes the reader on a journey that is intertwined with stories that are fictional and real. Stories that remind you of a folklore that can only be told by grandparent and great grandparents; the magical realism that exist in the pueblos of Mexico that tries to make sense of wars, conquest and religion. And that in making sense of what is happening, this truth-combined with fiction-becomes the norm for a group of people like the Reyes family. So, as the new generation of Reyes emerge from the soil of Ciudad Mexico, the stories either become your guiding force to live by or a burden and forces you to uproot and seed in the USA -(or was it the corrupt government ?). She explores deep family values and belief, that guide till this day, the family dynamic in Latin American countries: First born son accolade, skin color, arranges marriage, society dynamics, the “que dirán,” Machismo and infidelity, to name a few. For Lala, the storyteller, we then start to explore the struggle of her bicultural identity. Cisneros, through Celaya, tries to explain this: not American enough and not Mexican enough. We feel the struggle and can get a sense of normalcy only once Celaya learns a hard lesson given to her by her dead grandmother-of which she can see and hear. Finally, the title Caramelo! References are made to the color throughout the story in a variety of situations. But especially a very sacred heirloom rebozo that holds the stories of the female characters as they are trying to find their place on this earth. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. Thanks Sandra Cisneros, for writing like you do.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book is beautifully written and it's no surprise since Cisneros is a poet. It's worth reading for the descriptions alone. I always enjoy exploring other cultures through literature and really appreciate the way she lets us see into the lives of Mexican immigrants in the US and the 2nd generation children born here. There is an overarching storyline and some great storytelling moments though this is fairly loose as a novel. There are a lot of tangents and stories within stories. It holds tog This book is beautifully written and it's no surprise since Cisneros is a poet. It's worth reading for the descriptions alone. I always enjoy exploring other cultures through literature and really appreciate the way she lets us see into the lives of Mexican immigrants in the US and the 2nd generation children born here. There is an overarching storyline and some great storytelling moments though this is fairly loose as a novel. There are a lot of tangents and stories within stories. It holds together but if you prefer plot driven fiction this isn't for you. The central image is a finely woven shaw of many strands that was left incomplete when the great-grandmother making it died. It was so complex that no one was ever able to finish it. While I appreciate this image and the way in which the novel is braided out of many stories and experiences there are ways in which the book is not quite as satisfying as it might be. Nevertheless it's a fascinating read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kzryszthof

    This book kinda chose me. It explained so many things about my current life in the US, it had me reflect on my past, my present and my future. Insightful and fun, there's no order to the stories told, and sometimes it's hard to tell what story you really are reading. My guess is that Sandra envisioned this book as a big old cuento, with a lot of telenovela, and a lot of those nonsensical truths, too mundane to be called paradoxes. It's easy to get lost in her vivid characters or in their telenov This book kinda chose me. It explained so many things about my current life in the US, it had me reflect on my past, my present and my future. Insightful and fun, there's no order to the stories told, and sometimes it's hard to tell what story you really are reading. My guess is that Sandra envisioned this book as a big old cuento, with a lot of telenovela, and a lot of those nonsensical truths, too mundane to be called paradoxes. It's easy to get lost in her vivid characters or in their telenovelesque lives but I think that's what this novel strives at. Pointing how telenovelesque our lives can be. It might not be perfect or maybe disparate mini stories with the same characters too stretched to be enclosed under a novel but the reading is pleasant and praise to Cisneros that really gave a lot on this book. Kudos to that!

  18. 4 out of 5

    April

    Just what you'd expect from Cisneros--vivid language that leaves you with fragments of flavors, colors, sounds, and sensations. You travel to and from Chicago, Mexico, and San Antonio with the characters and you grow to love them along the way. What I didn't like was the ongoing metafictional conversation between the narrator and the grandmother about memory and facts, and how they are altered for the greater truth of the story. Why do authors writing autobiographical novels feel the need to jus Just what you'd expect from Cisneros--vivid language that leaves you with fragments of flavors, colors, sounds, and sensations. You travel to and from Chicago, Mexico, and San Antonio with the characters and you grow to love them along the way. What I didn't like was the ongoing metafictional conversation between the narrator and the grandmother about memory and facts, and how they are altered for the greater truth of the story. Why do authors writing autobiographical novels feel the need to justify this? It's one thing to call a book non-fiction if it isn't. But this is a novel--a beautiful and memorable story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Maldonado

    This was a book my mom loved and recommended it to me. Unfortunately, I struggled through it. I feel I didn’t appreciate the writing and experiences shared the way they should have been. Maybe because I’m second generation and could not relate my life experiences to this story the way my mom or her mom could.

  20. 5 out of 5

    BookChampions

    Caramelo is a most unusual book. It is part-memoir, part-fiction, part-retelling of The House on Mango Street, and part-dream. Knowing very well what I do of Sandra Cisneros and her generally small body of work, I can never quite tell where the line between Caramelo's main character (Lala Reyes) and Cisneros herself actually is. Several incidents in this novel even mirror Esperanza's tale and those of her poems, muddying even more the line between fact and fiction and more fiction. When I heard C Caramelo is a most unusual book. It is part-memoir, part-fiction, part-retelling of The House on Mango Street, and part-dream. Knowing very well what I do of Sandra Cisneros and her generally small body of work, I can never quite tell where the line between Caramelo's main character (Lala Reyes) and Cisneros herself actually is. Several incidents in this novel even mirror Esperanza's tale and those of her poems, muddying even more the line between fact and fiction and more fiction. When I heard Cisneros speak back in 2003, she insisted that Lala was a fictional rendering, but she left me wondering about memory itself and how it works. Aren't we all fictional characters in the novels of our own memories? At the end of Caramelo, she writes, "La Divina Providencia is the most imaginative writer. Plot lines convolute and spiral, lives intertwine, coincidences collide, seemingly random happenings are laced with knots, figure eights, and double loops, designs more intricate than the fringe of a silk rebozo. No, I couldn't make this up. Nobody could make up our lives." God, I love that--don't you? But at the same time, Cisneros proves that we can, in fact, make up/revise/fictionalize our own histories. We can tell, what she calls, "healthy lies" because even in our wildest literary inventions, we find truth. That said, Caramelo is a challenging novel to get through. There is no driving, single narrative to propel the reader, and as a result I usually end up reading it in chunks and then setting it down because I get sucked into another book. Her bold use of Spanish diction/bilingualism doesn't bother me, but I've heard that this has alienated other Anglo readers. I love the characters, but I feel at a distance from them at certain points in the novel. For example, Lala is at times the main character and at times merely an observer. Sandra Cisneros, though, is one of my favorite writers. Her prose is so musical, forever rhythmic, and always a surprise. Her way of describing even the most mundane things makes everything seem fresh and remarkable. She has probably had one of the biggest impacts on my own writing style, and for this reason, I will read Caramelo again and again to hear the musicality of the written word and wonder if I could ever create something from the shards of my life so utterly beautiful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    I found this book very hard to get into at first there are so many names and horrible nicknames like the Awful Grandmother and Uncle Fat Face. I'm also not a fan of writing in one language and sprinkling in words of another without stating their meaning. However, which each book the story improved. There is the beginning which an introduction to the past and the family, then we move into the Awful Grandmother's story, and finally Lala as a late teenager beginning to understand grown up life. I r I found this book very hard to get into at first there are so many names and horrible nicknames like the Awful Grandmother and Uncle Fat Face. I'm also not a fan of writing in one language and sprinkling in words of another without stating their meaning. However, which each book the story improved. There is the beginning which an introduction to the past and the family, then we move into the Awful Grandmother's story, and finally Lala as a late teenager beginning to understand grown up life. I really didn't have a connection with this book, and if it wasn't for an upcoming discussion I'm not sure if I would have finished it. I'm glad that I did. There are a couple of ideas I did appreciate.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kali Piontek

    The story itself was interesting & I enjoyed learning about the family & history of the characters in the book. That said I felt it dragged on & could have been shortened. The writing style was also somewhat hard to follow at times as well as all of the different nicknames that every person in the book had. It got to be confusing throughout the book trying to keep track of which character the storyteller was talking about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite

    A good story, told well. But, there's too much of it, with 434 pages. I most enjoyed the portions of the novel set in Mexico City and other sites south of the border. They reminded me of visits to my relatives there. The dialogue is good enough to read aloud. I'd have given it another star if it were 50-75 pages shorter. It got a little tiresome in the middle. There are touches of magical realism in the story, which I liked. A good story, told well. But, there's too much of it, with 434 pages. I most enjoyed the portions of the novel set in Mexico City and other sites south of the border. They reminded me of visits to my relatives there. The dialogue is good enough to read aloud. I'd have given it another star if it were 50-75 pages shorter. It got a little tiresome in the middle. There are touches of magical realism in the story, which I liked.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Notaro

    Beautifully written, compelling, follows a family from Mexico City, back generations, then to the current—while not epic, it is comprehensive and brilliantly assembled. I loved this book. Had put off reading it for ten years because I read some stupidly bad review of it. The reviewer simply didn't understand what Cisneros was doing. So glad I finally went back. Beautifully written, compelling, follows a family from Mexico City, back generations, then to the current—while not epic, it is comprehensive and brilliantly assembled. I loved this book. Had put off reading it for ten years because I read some stupidly bad review of it. The reviewer simply didn't understand what Cisneros was doing. So glad I finally went back.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    This book is simply stunning. It's the most real book I have ever read, with exquisite lines and important truths that need to be told. It's divided into 3 parts, and I will not lie, the 2nd part read a little slow, but it was an overall beautiful and captivating novel, and the 3rd part made up for this slowness. This should honestly be mandatory reading for all. This book is simply stunning. It's the most real book I have ever read, with exquisite lines and important truths that need to be told. It's divided into 3 parts, and I will not lie, the 2nd part read a little slow, but it was an overall beautiful and captivating novel, and the 3rd part made up for this slowness. This should honestly be mandatory reading for all.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jill Lucht

    I only made it to page 67. As other reviewers have mentioned, this book is probably excellent for people who are fluent in Spanish and English. I missed a lot of the story and underlying meaning due to my nonexistent Spanish skills. Yet again, I wish I had studied Spanish!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    Cisneros earlier writing--the vignettes--were wonderful because they left so much to the imagination. This novel is far more complex in plot and in characterization. This is the first time I remember Cisneros using magic realism. Good use. Effective. The main character'set parents were young during WWII, making this story set in in the 1960s. Yet the experience remains similar to mine in the 1980s. Maybe the young woman was ahead of her time? Or maybe like many of Cisneros' characters, she is any Cisneros earlier writing--the vignettes--were wonderful because they left so much to the imagination. This novel is far more complex in plot and in characterization. This is the first time I remember Cisneros using magic realism. Good use. Effective. The main character'set parents were young during WWII, making this story set in in the 1960s. Yet the experience remains similar to mine in the 1980s. Maybe the young woman was ahead of her time? Or maybe like many of Cisneros' characters, she is anytime from mid-20th century to now. Vive Cisneros/Long Live Cisneros' work.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shamiram

    This book is a whirlwind, but in a really good way. It feels so real and authentic and I seriously ugly cried at some parts.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, going in. Halfway through it felt very much like the earlier works of Isabel Allende. It went on a bit too long for me, though, and I disliked the ending--that neat little package, the message that "family is always family." Because so often it isn't. But that's just my experience vs that of the author. Good use of language, though as a translator myself I did wonder why she mis-translated so many phrases so they don't mean in English quite wh I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, going in. Halfway through it felt very much like the earlier works of Isabel Allende. It went on a bit too long for me, though, and I disliked the ending--that neat little package, the message that "family is always family." Because so often it isn't. But that's just my experience vs that of the author. Good use of language, though as a translator myself I did wonder why she mis-translated so many phrases so they don't mean in English quite what was said in Spanish.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roosevelt

    This story made me reflect on the meaning of an family in a whole different way. An invaluable immigrant story. Incredible.

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