Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
I've stumbled across The House on Mango Street a few times while browsing through Amazon, but never actually ordered it. Still, I was kind of interested in the author, so after seeing Sophia's review of the novel Caramelo, I decided to read it.
As she said, it is a slow read at times. I think part of it may have just been that I was a little busy when I started reading this anyway so it felt like I wasn't making much progress until I finally just brought it on the plane with me on my way to Budapest. The first section serves as an introduction to Celaya's extended family with their trip to Mexico for the summer. This was the first and only time that her family traveled down to Mexico as a caravan though they all visited annually and after all the fights, it definitely did not become a family tradition. Lala and her cousins are all afraid of her grandmother, who has a very distinct preference for her oldest son, Lala's father. This means she isn't always that nice to her other children, and she has problems with her daughter-in-law, who took away her son, and even is jealous of her grandchildren.
The second section describes Soledad, her grandmother, and all the hardships she endured in her life. Her first son, Inocencio, was the first stable and permanent love she had, so it is perhaps understandable how her life became so focused on him - her mother died, her father shipped her off to relatives, her husband cheated on her - a series of losses and disappointments.
After this, we move into Inocencio's life, and that of his children. Inocencio and his brothers all ended up in Chicago in business together, but the dream of owning property drives him to Texas, where four of his children have to make some adjustments (the other three were old enough to refuse to go).
Overall, it was a slow novel but a very well drawn picture of a family. I especially enjoyed the parts in the grandmother's sections in which the grandmother and granddaughter are talking to each other, the grandmother telling her she is adding too much to the story or leaving too much out (she kept begging for a love scene between herself and her husband but Lala brushed her off, choosing to go the more tragic route of unrequited love). Some of the parts are very reminiscent of other coming of age stories - the crazy, wild friends, but it all worked well together, and I enjoyed the twists and turns.