Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

A Book Review:  Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni

by Sandra Bowens


Enter the magic world of Tilo, Mistress of Spices, at her fragrant shop in Oakland. She can see into your heart and determine just what spice is needed to fulfill your desires. But what of her own desires? She hadn't given them a thought until the Lonely American stepped through the door at closing time one Friday evening.


In The Mistress of Spices, Chitra Divakaruni weaves an enchanting tale of mystery, human nature and risk punctuated by aromatic sorcery. Some may find it difficult reading at first. The unusual sentence structure requires us to slow down. Quickly the lyrical prose becomes a delight to savor like a meal so tasty we hope it never ends.


Tilo has taken a vow, given her life to the spices. The beautiful young woman resides in a tired, old body hurtled into this modern world only to help others. By obeying the rules, the spices will speak to her. As the story unfolds, the rules need to be broken and we can understand. Or, at other times, Tilo finds herself struggling because she wants to break the rules and again we understand.


Through it all, Divakaruni writes so that we can smell the spices and taste the foods prepared with them. We learn the secrets of the spices while relishing chapters with such titles as "Fennel," "Black Pepper," and "Fenugreek.


This is an exciting novel. The story takes twists and turns that cannot be anticipated. You'll find yourself smiling at the vivid descriptions and rooting for every character. By the end, you'll wish you could pay a visit to Tilo's exotic Spice Bazaar shop.



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