Megan Harlan
March 21, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Mistress of Spices

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B+

The Mistress of Spices is a tangy take on the magic realist food-and-love genre (Like Water for Chocolate). Tilo, an Indian psychic, joins the secret, supernatural Mistress of Spices clan, which administers magically healing condiments to troubled Indians everywhere. Assuming the form of an elderly shopkeeper in Oakland, Tilo prescribes spices for her customers’ travails, like mind-sharpening fennel to a self-doubting, battered wife. As expected, Tilo’s head is soon turned: Will she succumb to gorgeous-guy temptation (and spice herself fantastically beautiful) or stick with her Mother Teresa-like selflessness? Divakaruni’s prose is as lushly colorful as a closetful of saris, perfect for this airy, witty contemporary fairy tale.

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