Medieval Christian mythology transformed the story of Sofia, the Greek goddess of wisdom, into the inspirational story of a heroic mother and her martyred daughters. So Far from God is Ana Castillo’s modern reinterpretation of the lives and struggles of Sofia and her four daughters, Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca. Set in contemporary New Mexico, the novel chronicles how this family, its neighbors, and their community confront and essentially prevail over the obstacles of racism, poverty, exploitation, environmental pollution, and war. The novel, covering two decades in the family’s lives, unfolds through a series of flashbacks woven into the central narrative. Blending ironic humor with scathing social commentary, the novel is told from the perspective of a highly opinionated, omniscient third-person narrator.
Beginning with a flashback to the mysterious death and equally mysterious resurrection—El Milagro—of La Loca at age three, the narrative quickly shatters any boundaries between the real and the unreal, the natural and the supernatural. La Loca’s miraculous resurrection and ascension to a church rooftop elevates the child to the status of folk saint. Left with an aversion to people, La Loca withdraws from the world and devotes her life to prayer and to the spiritual care of her family.
From this flashback, the novel moves into the more recent past as the narrator details the stories of Sofia and her daughters. Like their mother, Sofia’s three older daughters have painful, failed relationships. While at college, Esperanza, a college activist, lived with her activist boyfriend, Ruben, who upon graduation elected to trade his Chicano cosmic consciousness for a gabacha (a white woman) with a Corvette. The most sensible of Sofia’s children, Esperanza turns her failed relationship into the catalyst for an advanced degree and a successful journalistic career. Esperanza’s younger sister Caridad also experiences problems in her marriage to her unfaithful high-school sweetheart, Memo. Rather than use that failure, the self-destructive Caridad resorts to alcohol and nightly anonymous sex to deal with the rejection....
(The entire section is 894 words.)