MISTRESS OF SPICES (1997)
Divakaruni’s bestselling novel Mistress of Spices (Doubleday/Anchor), written in a unique style that blends prose and poetry, magic and reality, was named one of the top 100 books of the 20th Century by the San Francisco Chronicle. Divakaruni comments, “I wrote the book in a spirit of play, collapsing the divisions between the realistic world of twentieth century America and the timeless one of myth in my attempt to create a modern fable.”
The novel follows the adventures of Tilo, a mysterious figure who runs a grocery store in inner-city Oakland and uses her knowledge of spices to help her customers overcome difficulties. Tilo provides magical spices not only for cooking but also for the challenges that Indian immigrants in an alien land experience. She develops dilemmas of her own when she falls in love with a mysterious stranger she calls the Lonely American, as now she has to choose whether to serve her people or to follow the path leading to her own happiness.
The novel was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and made into a film by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges of Bend It Like Beckham fame.
PRAISE FOR THE MISTRESS OF SPICES:
"Divakaruni's debut story collection, Arranged Marriages
(1995), inspired high praise, and her first novel, which uses romance as
a conduit to explore more serious matters of the soul, will win her
even greater acclaim. Mythical and mystical, Mistress of Spices
is reminiscent of fables and fairy tales. . . . The story Divakaruni tells is transporting, but it is her
gift for metaphor that makes this novel live and breathe, its pages as
redolent as any freshly ground spice." Booklist
"An unusual, clever, and often exquisite first novel...The result is rather as if Isabel Allende met Laura Esquivel."
--Los Angeles Times
"Beneath the sighs and
smells of this brand of magic realism, [Divakaruni] deftly introduces her true
theme: how an ability to accommodate desire enlivens not only the
individual heart but a society cornered by change."
--The New Yorker
"The Mistress of Spices is a dazzling tale of misbegotten dreams and desires, hopes and expectations, woven with poetry and storyteller magic."
"A splendid novel, beautifully conceived and crafted."