"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Monday, August 29, 2005

Peel My Love Like an Onion




Has there ever been a character in a novel stranger, more hypnotic and more entrancing than Carmen La Coja? Not for me. Peel My Love Like an Onion is the story of Carmen La Coja or the Cripple who has a crippled leg, shriveled from polio. It doesn’t stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a Flamenco dancer, from being beautiful and seductive or from carrying herself with pride. However, when Carmen is not dancing, she loses her surety, her poise and grace.

The book is the story of Carmen’s finding of herself. It is a love story as well. Carmen falls in love with a young gypsy dancer in her troupe, Manolo the nephew of Augustin, leader of the troupe and also Carmen’s married lover. There is love and betrayal, bitter disappointment and loss, confusion and sexuality in this marvelous book about the unquenchable spirit that resides in Carmen La Coja.

After years of dancing, her polio returns and she is forced to stop dancing, to take odd jobs and move home with her parents. Slowly, Carmen is feeling suffocated, bereft and just as slowly she fights her way back and reclaims her life, her spirit and her identity.

Ana Castillo writes with exquisite detail. We feel every emotion and sensation. Like the onion referenced in the title, this book has layers and layers to be peeled away and tasted. It’s a powerful and strangely beautiful story that will stay with you and pop into your head at odd moments to make you smile.

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