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Once Upon a Time in Rio: A Novel

by Francisco Azevedo

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445473,454 (3.67)None
"From well-known Brazilian playwright Francisco Azevedo, a heartwarming debut novel about three generations of a family whose kitchen contains the secret ingredient for happiness--sure to appeal to fans of Like Water for Chocolate. Once upon a time there was some rice. Rice planted in the earth, fallen from the sky, and gathered up from the stone. Rice that doesn't spoil, it came from far away, by ship with three exuberant young people filled with dreams... Once Upon a Time in Rio is a spellbinding family saga beginning with José Custódio and Maria Romana and their search for a prosperous future. As newlyweds, José and Maria immigrated to Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century, accompanied by a special gift. During the dinner preparations to celebrate their centenary wedding anniversary, their eldest son Antonio, already a grandfather, looks back at the lives of his parents, his aunt, his brothers, their children and grandchildren, as well as his own. Antonio knows that family is a difficult dish to get right and that happiness must be cooked up day by day; however, what separates his family from any other is its possession of a secret ingredient for happiness: the sack of magical rice given to his parents on their wedding day. With the help of the rice, whose magic is as old as fire and time, Antonio's family has been guided through the most trying of life's tribulations. Lyrically written, Once Upon a Time in Rio bares the fragile yet strong nature of the human spirit and with great insight captures the solace provided by loved ones in times of need. Already an international bestseller, this is a beautifully told tale about the wisdom of past generations and the inextricable ties of family"--… (more)
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[bookcover:Once Upon a Time in Rio|18775436]
Once Upon a Time in Rio – Francisco Azevedo
4****

When Jose Custodio and Maria Romana marry in Lisbon in 1908, his sister Palma, retrieves all the rice thrown by well-wishers at the ceremony, and presents it to the couple as a gift, to symbolize future health and fertility. When the young couple, along with Palma, decide to emigrate to Brazil, the rice comes with them, tucked away among the linens. The novel follows the Custodios, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren through the decades and into the 21st century.

The original Portuguese title – O Arroz de Palma – translates as “Palma’s Rice” and the rice definitely has a role in this delightful multi-generational saga of love, adventure, joy, disappointment, fear, prosperity and all those ingredients that make up the delicious dish we know as family. The story is told by Antonio, son of Jose & Maria, who at the outset of the book is already a grandfather himself and planning a family celebration in honor of what would be his parents’ 100th wedding anniversary. As Antonio looks back, he is remembering the stories his beloved Aunt Palma told him about his parents and his own early childhood, and then his own recollections of his youth and the sibling rivalry between he and his brothers and sister as they grow to adulthood and leave the family home to seek their own fortunes.

It reminded me at times of the Spanish telenovelas my grandmother loved to listen to on the radio. Weddings, births, funerals, fights and making up. Such drama and histrionics! Such love and passion! I was engaged and interested from beginning to end. ( )
  BookConcierge | Sep 22, 2021 |
Review:



It's been a while since I've done a list version of a book review. To shake things up I'm going to do that with this book.

Beautiful writing.
Transports you throughout the decades.
Shows the importance of family.
Conveys the struggles families go through.
Love the deep respect these characters have for their elders. (even when they think they are nuts)
The art of storytelling.
The magical rice. The source of so much drama.
Aunt Palma. She's such an amazing character, and reminds me of my great-grandmother. Full of wisdom and advice.
Antonio, the main character. He's a dreamer, and tends to wander off in his mind.
The timeline. We get a view of him now, in his 80's and flashbacks of his childhood and growing up.

There's so many great things about this book. I couldn't put into words how I feel. I do know that I definitely came away from this book knowing that my relationship with my family means a lot. ( )
  BookishThings | Mar 23, 2016 |
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"From well-known Brazilian playwright Francisco Azevedo, a heartwarming debut novel about three generations of a family whose kitchen contains the secret ingredient for happiness--sure to appeal to fans of Like Water for Chocolate. Once upon a time there was some rice. Rice planted in the earth, fallen from the sky, and gathered up from the stone. Rice that doesn't spoil, it came from far away, by ship with three exuberant young people filled with dreams... Once Upon a Time in Rio is a spellbinding family saga beginning with José Custódio and Maria Romana and their search for a prosperous future. As newlyweds, José and Maria immigrated to Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century, accompanied by a special gift. During the dinner preparations to celebrate their centenary wedding anniversary, their eldest son Antonio, already a grandfather, looks back at the lives of his parents, his aunt, his brothers, their children and grandchildren, as well as his own. Antonio knows that family is a difficult dish to get right and that happiness must be cooked up day by day; however, what separates his family from any other is its possession of a secret ingredient for happiness: the sack of magical rice given to his parents on their wedding day. With the help of the rice, whose magic is as old as fire and time, Antonio's family has been guided through the most trying of life's tribulations. Lyrically written, Once Upon a Time in Rio bares the fragile yet strong nature of the human spirit and with great insight captures the solace provided by loved ones in times of need. Already an international bestseller, this is a beautifully told tale about the wisdom of past generations and the inextricable ties of family"--

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