SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
'A dazzling tale... woven with poetry and storyteller magic.' AMY TAN
Tilo, an immigrant from India, runs a spice shop in Oakland, California. While she supplies the ingredients for curries and kormas, she also dispenses wisdom and the appropriate spice: for Tilo is a Mistress of Spices, a priestess of the secret magical powers of spices.
To those who visit her shop, Tilo prescribes coriander for the restoration of sight, chilli for the cleansing of evil, fenugreek for the pain of rejection. But when a lonely American ventures into the store, a troubled Tilo cannot find the correct spice, for he arouses in her a forbidden desire - which if she follows will destroy her magical powers.
Compelling and lyrical, full of heady scents and with more than a touch of humour, this novel explores the clash between East and West even as it unveils the universal mysteries of the human heart.
'I felt excited and empowered by the way she used words' NAOMI ALDERMAN, author of THE POWER
'Unusual, clever, and often exquisite' LA Times
Carving a fresh niche in the genre of literary romance, Divakaruni, author of the praised short-story collection Arranged Marriage (1995), has written an ambitious first novel that injects magic and mysticism into a contemporary urban setting. The narrator, born in India with supernatural gifts, has learned the secret powers of spices. Upon taking her vows as a Mistress of Spices, Tilo is granted immortality on several conditions, one being that she must never succumb to carnal desires. Emerging from a ritual fire, Tilo is transformed into an old, ugly woman, the proprietor of a spice store in a seedy area of Oakland, Calif. Because she can see into the minds and hearts of her customers, Tilo is able to recommended spices that can help them surmount their sorrows and fulfill their hopes. (Divakaruni's poetic descriptions of a myriad array of spices are a fascinating mixture of superstition and homeopathic medicine.) But when handsome Raven walks into her store, Tilo immediately falls in love with him. Suddenly vulnerable, she decides to transform herself into a young woman in order to enjoy a night of love with Raven. Divakaruni writes lush prose with which she infuses the mundane with magic. Like Bharati Mukherjee, she perceptively depicts a cross-section of the Indian immigrant community trapped between traditional values and the American dream. Unfortunately, the love story a variant of the frog prince myth in which the frog is TiloDis fatally undermined by the character of Raven, who is a stick figure constructed around a plot device. His immediate attraction to the elderly Tilo is never credible, and the dialogue he speaks is so artificial it can make one cringe. Major ad/promo; excerpt in D magazine; author tour.