September’s Wine Country Books Reader, The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel
The members of the Wine Country Books online book discussion group have been dying to begin the conversation about this book! Have you gotten your copy yet? If not, I still have one free copy to send the first person who comments here or emails me at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail dot com.
So what do you think?
Readers! Let’s get the comments rolling!
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“Listen, Senorita. You have any idea how meretricious I’ve been?
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’ve levitated my soul enough to merit scatological treatment.”
– page 55
I don’t read enough Latin American literature. Whenever I do, it is unbelievable- enjoyable, earthy, usually darkly funny but not always, and beautifully written. My most recent read was Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado. What a treat.
It all started when my mom gave me a copy of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits when I was a teen, sealing my love for and fascination with Latin America for good. Some years later she gave me The Law of Love. I don’t know where that copy went, and I am so glad it cropped up again. It has everything, right? Music, illustration by Miguelanxo Prado, and, a silly yet really soulful premise- we are thrown into situations again and again, reincarnation after reincarnation, until we finally atone for whatever evil we did in previous lives, and only when we atone fully can we step free of our spiritual messes and find true love. The illustrations and especially the music really bring me right into the story, like the alarming realness of the news of the assassination on the Televirtual set.
When I read Cuquita’s conversation with the bureaucrat at the Astral Ascension desk in the Consumer Protection Agency, I just cracked up.
“Well, okay, I admit I was pretty nasty, but not enough to deserve this! I’ve spent enough time paying off karmas from posterior lives not to be stuck with a man guilty of default and battery. Just look at this eye! If you don’t grant me a divorce soon, I swear I’ll kill him.”
“Do what you like, but you’ll still have to pay. Next, please.”
I mean… what married lady has NOT felt this way at least for a time?
If she says she hasn’t she is LYING! And if she really hasn’t- well. Hum.
It is my favorite kind of humor- the humor that strikes right at the heart of a human situation, with compassion as well as cutting honesty. It seems like everything I read or every movie I watch from the Spanish Speaking World is so rich with this painful hilarity (or hilarious pain?). With the exception of Pan’s Labyrinth. That was not hilarious or witty, not one bit. It was amazing, but funny it never was, not for one moment. But in general, the humor in Latin American literature and film cuts deeply and truly.
I am sure Cuquita’s and Azucena’s sentiments fit just fine with other situations that have us wondering WHY ME? AND HOW DO I GET OUT OF THIS? Miserable jobs, parenting horrible children, putting up with some asshole coworker or family member day after day, or life’s many other more painful passages- and the common theme is that I don’t deserve it! How can I get out of it! Why am I having to put up with this? WHY ME? What agency can assist me out of this mess?
At the start of the book I was absolutely on board regarding the physical and spiritual violence done when colonial powers set themselves to bring indigenous civilizations and people to heel. But the story line made me uncomfortable, and it didn’t seem particularly well written… but I do wonder if the language and tone would sound much more literary in the original Spanish, and I do see the necessity of these brief passages and the first set of dark illustrations to the story.
And fast-forwarded to Azucena’s story, I am back on comfortable ground. Done well, this book could make an adorable, yet deeply thoughtful and soulful movie. And the whole book and cd are worth it just to read the words of Liliana Felipe’s song Mala, Track 2. Seriously.
I’ve read ahead a bit, through the thoughts of the Demon Mammon. I get a huge kick out of how he claims credit for human evolution, by making us suffer. His idea that violence is required to produce a masterpiece reminds me of the very insightful, cutting humor I value so highly.
I look forward to reading more, and to hearing what you think, dear reader! Get in touch and I will send you a copy free!!!