is an enchanting, bittersweet story that demonstrates in convincing fashion how keeping secrets leads to unhappiness, while true communication can lead to love. An award-winning and best-selling author, Laura Esquivel fills her latest novel with her signature sensuality and magical realism. In the story, the narrator's father, Jœbilo, is a telegraph operator whose power is interpreting and transmitting the true desires of his customers. This inborn skill, honed by acting as an interpreter between his warring Mayan grandmother and his Spanish-speaking mother, translates each woman's words of spite into words of respect. Remarkably, their mutual hatred transforms into love. Jœbilo's gift for understanding hidden messages, for listening to sand dunes sing and insects whisper, fails him when it comes to his own wife. A series of miscommunications, complicated by sunspot activity, creates tragic consequences. What event has come between two such sensuous, loving people to cause their seemingly irreparable rift? As Don Jœbilo lies on his deathbed, mute and estranged from his beloved wife, it is up to his daughter Lluvia to bring reconciliation to her parents before it is too late. By acting as interpreter between them, just as Jœbilo used to do for others, Lluvia is able to bridge the gap. Esquivel, whose novel Like Water for Chocolate has sold more than four and a half million copies in 35 languages, has a rare gift for describing characters with memorable foibles and idiosyncrasies. Don Jœbilo's gift of interpretation, like Tita de la Garza's gift for cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, is inexorably linked to his soul. The one affects the other; when his connection to others' unspoken desires fails, Jœbilo's relationships suffer. Esquivel's illumination of the motives that drive us as humans, even when we do not understand them, sets her novels apart. That ability, coupled with her dramatic use of the lush, tropical settings of her native Mexico, creates another work of fiction that acknowledges the alchemy of connection and the despair that results from severing those ties.
Kelly Koepke writes from her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.