Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
The Infinite Plan was Chilean writer Isabel Allende’s first novel following her move to the United States. Although it was written in Spanish, the book is set in California and chronicles the life of a European American man. Allende uses her character’s experiences to examine the factors that shaped the United States’ social history in the decades following World War II. Her focus is the Latino culture in California, in which the main character comes of age.
As the book opens, young Gregory Reeves and his family are living a nomadic life as his father preaches a spiritual doctrine he calls the Infinite Plan. When the elder Reeves falls ill in Los Angeles, the family settles in the barrio (although they are not Latino). Gregory grows up experiencing life as a member of a minority group within the community. His closest friend is Carmen Morales, whose family comes to regard him as an honorary son. Following high school, Gregory leaves home for Berkeley and college while Carmen remains in the barrio until an unwanted pregnancy and near-fatal abortion make her an outcast.
Gregory leaves an unhappy marriage to serve a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam, while Carmen lives abroad and begins designing jewelry. Both meet again in Berkeley, where Gregory embarks on an ambitious quest for success that leads him away from his youthful idealism and into a second failed marriage and problems with alcoholism. Carmen adopts her dead brother’s...
(The entire section is 433 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In Allende’s fourth novel, she exchanges the Latin American setting and memorable heroines of the previous three books for an American setting and a male protagonist. The Infinite Plan tells the story of Gregory Reeves, son of an itinerant preacher. In it, Allende relies on realistic detail rather than elements of Magical Realism. She continues to use her skillful narrative techniques to interweave the lives of many characters who represent twentieth century American lifestyles.
Gregory, his mother, sister, and a family friend travel around the country in the 1940’s with his father Charles, who tries to win converts to the infinite plan, his peculiar doctrine of destiny and salvation. When Charles becomes ill, the group settles in a Hispanic barrio of Los Angeles, where Gregory finds that life is even harder than on the road. As a white misfit, he suffers the pains of being an outsider as well as the usual pains of adolescence. These are somewhat eased by Pedro and Immaculada Morales, who become his surrogate parents, and by their daughter Carmen, who becomes a lifelong friend.
In addition to the Morales family, Gregory has other mentors. They help him cope as his family life deteriorates. His father dies, his mother withdraws into the world of the infinite plan, and his sister eats to avoid her problems. Gregory is initiated into sex by Olga and into the life of the mind by Cyrus, a communist elevator operator at the public...
(The entire section is 546 words.)