Quiara Alegría Hudes

Water by the Spoonful

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  • Features 15 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with a Master's degree in Gender, Literature, and Modernity
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Water by the Spoonful Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 28-page guide for “Water by the Spoonful” by Quiara Alegría Hudes includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 15 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Trauma, Addiction, and Recovery and Familial Relationships and Community.

Plot Summary

Water by the Spoonful is a play by Quiara Alegría Hudes. First produced in 2011, it is the secondplay of a series, known as “The Elliot Trilogy.” Water by the Spoonful tells the story of multiple characters connected by familial bonds and online community, and their experiences with trauma and recovery.

The play opens with Elliot and Yaz Ortiz, two cousins, meeting at the college where Yaz works as an adjunct music instructor. Yaz has found a professor to translate an Arabic phrase that has been haunting Elliot since his time as a Marine in Iraq. When the phrase does get translated, it seems harmless:Can I please have my passport back?

While events happen in the “real world,” there is also an online chat room where people recovering from drug addiction come together for comfort and support. Orangutan, Chutes&Ladders, and Haikumom are the usernames for these characters, and in many ways, they are just as close as a family in the real world. Orangutan is newer to sobriety, and Haikumom and Chutes&Ladders guide her. A new member to the chat room, Fountainhead, signs on asking for help to quit using crack. Orangutan and Chutes&Ladders doubt his sincerity and challenge him, but Haikumom tries to encourage him and even offers to meet him in person since they live in the same city.

Haikumom’s real name is Odessa Ortiz; she is Elliot’s birth mother, and Yaz’s aunt. Because of her struggles with addiction and the related death of her daughter, Elliot was raised by Odessa’s sister, Ginny. Mami Ginny dies in the first act of the play, and Elliot and Yaz are forced to deal with the details of the funeral: arranging flowers, giving the eulogy, and scattering her ashes in Puerto Rico. Odessa at first insists she can’t help, but after Elliot humiliates her by telling Fountainhead/John about his childhood trauma, Odessa tells Elliot and Yaz to pawn her computer. During the funeral, Odessa stays home and overdoses. Elliot and Yaz find her unconscious in her apartment and call 911.

Chutes&Ladders and Orangutan have a special bond, despite their differences in age and background. Orangutan makes herself vulnerable enough to ask Chutes&Ladders to come to Japan and be her real-world friend. Chutes&Ladders resists at first, claiming sobriety is the only part of life he can handle. At the end of the play, Chutes&Ladders sells his car to buy a plane ticket to Japan and meets Orangutan in the real world.

Fountainhead/John becomes Odessa’s caretaker after her relapse. He brings her home from the hospital, bathes her, and makes plans to take her to a rehab facility. Elliot and Yaz visit Odessa in the hospital (although this action does not take place on stage) and then go to Puerto Rico, in order to scatter Ginny’s ashes. In Puerto Rico, the cousins each take steps to start down a new path. Yaz buys Mami Ginny’s house in North Philadelphia and plans to move back into the old neighborhood. Elliot buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to try and make a living as an actor.

The play concludes with Elliot and Yaz scattering the ashes on one part of the stage, while John lifts a radiant, but sickly, Odessa out of the bathtub on the other part of the stage. All of the main characters are beginning new phases in their lives, being vulnerable, taking risks, and moving toward redemption and healing with hope.

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