Friday, October 24, 2008

A spectacular dish so far

I remember Beth telling me a few weeks ago that I would fall in love with this book. So I looked at the bright cover, the crafty blunt pages and thought, "hmmmm, why not?" And so I began...and she was absolutely right.

To make the García Girls recipe, take 4 cups Little Women, add 1 litre My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a bit of Dominican rum for flavour, and a dash of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (just because Sandi's a bit of a nut case and I love Jack Nicolson) :P

What struck me as most interesting about this book is its tendency to be unconventional. The sections will often go chronologically backwards (ie: 1970-1960)...not sure yet whether this is to denote a flashback...but it is a curious feature to say the least! Even the family tree at the beginning of the novel is abnormal. The family members are described as (let's admit it) you would normally describe family members: "The great-great-grandfather who married a Swedish girl", or "the hair-and-nails cousins". This technique makes much more sense after reading the first chapter and seeing that all the aunts are giving "a capsule description of what Yolanda might remember of that relative: the one with the kidney bean swimming pool, the fat one, the one who was an ambassador." (p. 14). I remember that even I have done this to stir a boyfriend's memory who had come to the family party: "Oh, remember Uncle Bruce, the bald one? or Aunt Vicky with the funny laugh?" And that is why I love this book; even though I haven't experienced every situation it brings up, I can still sense its truth.

The novel has an interesting way of telling the stories. I enjoy how, for example, each of the stories about the daughters are subtitled by their different nicknames, depending on the time period, who is telling the story, or what happened to them in the story. I found this to cement the fact that these girls each had troubles handling their identities. Each name they were given denoted each separate segment of themselves.

I find it confusing how the girls will sometimes love their homeland: "Let this [Dominican Republic] turn out to be my home" (page 11), and other times they abhor having to travel back to the Dominican each summer to see their family. I started to think that maybe it's less of 'where' they are that is confusing, and more the fact that there is always a 'question' of where they are: the US or the Dominican? Where do they belong?

I found that I could relate to the sisterhood involved in this novel as I have 2 older sisters and no brothers. I believe that this bond is universal (albeit on different levels) for all sisters. I also believe that the different levels of this bond stem from the life situations the sisters experience together. I wonder if I would've turned out as Sofía did if I'd had one more older sister and we'd all been constantly moved between two worlds.

Feel free to comment on what else you would add to the García Girls recipe!

1 comment:

Kaan said...


Your blog really made me laugh, I have to say. You added some interesting personal touches this time! I would add another 1/2 litre of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" for sure!

I think that the comments you made about Alvarez's style are all very pertinent to the main themes of the story. When I began reading it I also found it interesting how the stories were going backwards in time. I think the reason she compiles the book that way is because in my opinion, you best get to know the characters in the stories which depict experiences later on in their lives. By that I mean, we get a good idea of who they became early on in the novel. In a way, it makes it that much more interesting to read the stories about their childhood, because you can make perceptions about their personalities in a different way than if it was written in chronological order. Dos that make any sense?

Anyway, glad you're loving it, I did as well!