The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
A sort of modern-day Indian fairy tale about Tilo, the Mistress of Spices. A magic realism tale--some parts so ordinary that they scream today (the setting is Oakland, before the earthquake) mixed in with fantabulous happenings that make is seem like a tale told in 1,000 nights.
Tilo is, to the world, an old woman running an Indian grocery store. In reality (fantasy?), she is a Mistress of Spices--that is, she is someone to whom spices speak, and someone who can use them to benefit the lives of others. Her gift comes with a price. She is never supposed to become personally involved with her customers. And she is never to leave the shop.
Of course, this being a modern tale, she actually does all those things, and to top it off she falls in love with an American. Her personal involvement causes things to work out much differently than they might have had she followed the rules--and to the book's credit, her rule-breaking brings suffering to innocent people. (I say to the book's credit, because too often it is the "gotta follow my heart no matter what" that opens that wide vista of happiness and the good life in modern books.) Tilo doesn't repent of her rule-breaking, but she does come to accept its cost and consequences. And she makes the age-old fairy tale choice--love over immortality.
Not a bad book, though I didn't think it nearly as good as Sister of My Heart, which the same author wrote--and we read for my book club.