So Far From God Summary

Ana Castillo

So Far From God

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So Far From God Summary

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Mexican-American writer Ana Castillo is recognized for her work in multiple genres, including drama, fiction, poetry, and essay writing. She is also a critic and a translator. Her style as a novelist is considered experimental and she has gained renown as a voice of the Chicana experience by combining elements of literary and oral traditions, and frequently tackling issues of race and gender.The Los Angeles Times said of So Far From God, “The subtext of the story lays out the terms of brutal poverty and discrimination that confront Hispanic and indigenous people in the rural Southwest. Castillo’s characters are caught between two cultures: an old one that is both reverent and exploitative of women; and a new one that views them mainly as a cheap labor force to be used up and abandoned. Sofi’s daughters are touched poignantly by miracles, occupational illness, sainthood and boyfriend problems, and, to their eternal credit, they never seem to take the easy way out.”

The novel So Far From God is the tale of four sisters in Tome, New Mexico, a small town not far from the Mexican border. The title of the book is a quote from the Mexican Civil War dictator Portirio Diaz who said, “Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States.” Castillo’s novel is concerned with issues that result from the interplay of cultures referred to by Diaz, particularly white patriarchal authority.She examines the culture in which the four women exist through a lens of magical realism, which, while having a realistic viewpoint, also applies some conventions of fables, myths, and allegories, and can even go so far as to deploy magic or the supernatural within the realistic world.

Sofi serves as the matriarch in the story. She has Spanish heritage and her parents were of Mexican descent; the land she lives on is a legacy from her grandfather. She and the family and friends in her life speak Spanish and are influenced by Mexican, American, and Spanish cultures and customs. The names of three of the four sisters who are Sofi’s daughters, and who serve as the central characters in the novel, are allegorical in nature; however,with the exception of La Loca whose name is not a virtue, they seem to be parodies of the virtues their names represent. La Loca means the crazy one, Fe is Faith, Caridad means charity, and Esperanza is hope. They live in a male dominated, racist society and all have difficulties to deal with and eventually face death. La Loca is so named because she died and came back to life. In reality she did not die but suffered a seizure when she was three years old, and the mistake was only discovered when she sat up in her coffin. She is considered by her family and others in the town to be insane because she avoids human contact. La Loca ultimately dies of AIDS.

Fe too is considered to be mad. She spent a year screaming as a result of being jilted by her fiancé. In order to acquire the things she wants in life, she decides to get married to her cousin.Fe later dies of cancer. Caridad lives a fast life, particularly with respect to her sexuality. She has undergone three abortions, performed by La Loca, was raped, and eventually becomes a spiritual healer. Caridad ends up jumping to her death along with a lover named Esmeralda. Esperanza attempts to avoid what seems her inevitable fate if she were to adhere to the traditions of her place in life. After earning degrees in Chicano Studies and Communications she becomes a journalist, but is eventually assigned to the Middle East and is killed in Saudi Arabia.

It has been a difficult life for Sofi, with an absent husband and the responsibility of raising four daughters. Following the deaths of all four of her ill-fated daughters, Sofi establishes a group known as MOMAS, an acronym for Mothers of Martyrs and Saints, which provides her with a sense of empowerment. In summing up the novel, Publishers Weekly recognizes the multiple influences at work in Castillo’s novel: “Castillo takes a page from the magical realist school of Latin American fiction, but one senses the North American component of this Chicana voice: in her work, occult phenomena are literal, not symbolic; life is traumatic and brutal—as are men—but death is merely tentative. She sounds a secondary note as a proponent of feminism and social justice, but her hand falters when she attempts to blend the formation of an artisans’ cooperative or an industrial toxins scandal into a universe of magical healings and manifestations.”