Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This followup to Esquivel's bestselling Like Water for Chocolate is propelled by the same jolly, reckless storytelling energy that has won the Mexican author so many fans, but skimpy character development and a breathlessly byzantine plot keep bringing the novel up short. Composed in a tantalizing style of New Age-sci-fi-magical realism, the tale is set in the year 2200, when astroanalyst Azucena Martinez, who lives in Mexico City, has been permitted at last to meet her twin soul, Rodrigo Sanchez, the man with whom she is to experience the ecstasy of perfect romantic union. And not a moment too soon; not only is Azucena terribly lonely, but she has finally paid off all the karmic debts accumulated in her 14,000 past lives. Alas for her, Rodrigo is not as karmically pure, and the day after their night of bliss, he is framed for murder and deported to the penal planet of Korma. As it turns out, this is all part of a divine plan: Azucena's quest to be reunited with her lover sets in motion a chain of events that will lead to the restoration of the law of Love on planet Earth. Esquivel punctuates her narrative with full-color "graphic novel" segments (by Spanish artist Miguelanxo Prado). The book also includes an 11-track CD of Puccini arias that figure in the plot and some remarkable Mexican "danzones," billed in the text as "Intervals for Dancing." In Azucena, Esquivel has created a delightfully feisty, unpretentious character; it is the reader's loss that neither she nor Rodrigo are ever fully developed, and that their love story is repeatedly upstaged by a fantastical setting and long-winded metaphysical discourse. First serial to L.A. Times Magazine. (Oct.)
In Esquivel's brave new world, people are fully aware of the burdens of past incarnations as they work them out, the memories objects retain of what they have witnessed can be retrieved, and viritual reality is, well, a reality. But there's romance in the life of astroanalyst Azucena, albeit of the New Age variety; she is trying to get in contact with Rodrigo, her twin soul. When Azucena returns home one day via aerophone, she finds herself in the middle of a mysterythere's a dead body in her apartmentand soon she's on the run from powerful forces that want her dead. She manages a body transplant and enlists the help of a neighbora non-Evo, it's true, but some issues are above classand eventually discovers a tragic connection to a stop-at-nothing candidate for Planetary President named Isabel. In the end, even Isabel is conquered by love. Throughout, in a page torn from the graphic novels popular in Esquivel's native Mexico, illustrations clarify the proceedings (including rape and murder), and an accompanying CD provides appropriate music. Esquivel's follow-up to the best-selling Like Water for Chocolate (LJ 9/1/92) mixes bits of every genre imaginable, and the result is at once wildly inventive and slightly silly, energetic and clichéd. Thoughtful readers will be troubled by the implications of Esquivel's philosophizing everything that happens may happen for a reason, but here it feels not like the Divine Love Esquivel promotes but a rationalization of evil. Still, Chocolate fans will eat this up. For most collections.
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Esquivel's first novel since the wildly successful Like Water for Chocolate (1992) gets off to a rocky start. For one thing, it's billed as "daringly innovative" because it includes illustrations (ugly ones at that) and a CD featuring music by Puccini. Readers may wonder, given the book's sloppy opening sequence, if this gimmicky "multimedia" presentation was meant to distract them from the book itself. Fortunately, Esquivel gets her bearings, and her narrative coalesces into a highly amusing mix of mysticism, science fiction, and her own brand of earthy and ironic humor. The action begins back in the bloody days of the conquistadores, then, thankfully, leaps forward to the twenty-third century and Esquivel's engaging heroine, an "astroanalyst" named Azucena, and her frustrated guardian angel, Anacreonte. He's peeved with his charge because she won't listen to him, so he explains the "Law of Love," the crux of the story. This dictum involves the canceling out of hate between two people with love, thus making them "twin souls," even if it takes 14,000 mutual reincarnations to make this transition. Azucena believes that she has evolved enough to complete this process and meet her twin soul Rodrigo, but the karma of other people interferes with her desires, and everything gets very kooky and chaotic. Esquivel revels in clever futuristic speculation, imagining such things as an aura-reading computer, soul transplants into "unregistered" bodies, and intergalactic soccer matches. She also executes a number of inventive plot twists that keep Azucena and Rodrigo in suspense and danger and her readers in excellent spirits.
An exuberant, hectic, ultimately exhausting novel about (among other things) time travel, true love, and reincarnation, by the author of the hugely best-selling Like Water for Chocolate (1992).
Set in Mexico City in the 23rd century, Esquivel's latest focuses on the determined and increasingly frantic attempts of Azucena, an "astroanalyst" (a therapist who helps people come to grips with the unfinished business of their past lives), to track down Rodrigo, her "twin soul." (After a soul has died and been reincarnated thousands of times, it seems, it finally attains sufficient wisdom to locate its true companion, the missing half of its true and essential being.) Rodrigo and Azucena have been abruptly, inexplicably parted after just one night of supreme love, during which they have formed a single being that "danced through space to the rhythm of the music of the spheres." It turns out that they have been swept into a bloody conspiracy by a deeply evil spirit to corrupt the largely blissful world of the future. Rodrigo has been dumped onto a hellish planet, and faces an unpleasant death unless Azucena can rescue him. After a series of increasingly broad and sketchy adventures (in which Azucena's guardian spirit, a variety of gods, and some truly weird technology are brought into play), all comes right. Whenever Esquivel is celebrating "the hidden order of the world," the salvational possibilities of love, she's engaging and persuasive. But the novel, which comes with a CD featuring arias and Mexican danzones (presumably to foster the right mood in the reader), and which includes several gaudy, comic- book-like sections illustrated by the artist Miguelanxo Prado, finally seems too anxious to overwhelm, too determined to entertain at any cost.
There's enough here to demonstrate that Esquivel can write, and that she possesses considerable originality. Next time out, though, she needs to try a little less hard to astonish.