Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
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...
(The entire section is 894 words.)
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Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
So Far from God is a tragicomic exploration of the cultural and temporal collisions in the Chicana world. A third-person narrator tells the story of two decades in the life of the resilient Chicana Sophia and her four ill-fated daughters in a small town in central New Mexico. The novel is a comedic mix of melodrama, visions, recipes, Catholicism, folklore, and miracles. In keeping with the tradition of oral literature, the storyteller sustains an intimate, conversational tone, incorporating Latino slang and regional dialect.
A parody of the Latin American staple, the telenovela, or soap opera, the protagonists are soap opera stereotypes. The visionary and comic plot is filled with ironies, and it contrasts the fantasy of the telenovela genre with the realities of Chicana lives. The novel’s admiration and empathy is for the Chicana—the men in the book are damaged or weak. They exploit or abandon the women or they bleat like sheep. Fe, ambitious, assimilated into the white culture, and perfectly groomed, is ashamed of her family. To reach her dream of middle-class respectability, she works overtime at a factory, where she contracts cancer from a chemical and dies. The beautiful Caridad, sexually promiscuous after her annulled marriage, is attacked and mutilated by several unidentified men. She uses spirituality to reconnect with the mysticism of her heritage, and she becomes a hermit, healer, and channeler. She falls in love...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Episode 1 Summary
Ana Castillo's So Far From God is written in a structure similar to a tele-novella, the Latino version of a soap opera, in that the novel is a series of "episodes." The first episode introduces the six major characters: Sofi, her daughters, and her husband. Sofi is introduced by describing her function within her society. Her daughter, Loca, dies at age three and the community helps Sofi mourn. Everyone comes to the wake except Sofi's husband, Domingo. None of Sofi's family had approved of their marriage and even the local priest had refused to perform the wedding ceremony. Domingo had left Sofi soon after Loca's conception.
At the baby's funeral, all of Sofi's neighbors are astonished when the seemingly dead child pushes open the lid of her coffin and flies onto the roof of the church. She argues with the priest and claims to have gone to Hell and come back. Because she seems to see things on a different level and because of her odd behavior, the townsfolk start calling the baby La Santa Loca (The Crazy Saint), which quickly becomes simply La Loca (The Crazy One). She cannot stand people other than her family, so she does not go to school or interact with the community.
Sofi's three other daughters are introduced in this first part as well. Esperanza is the "smart'' one, Caridad the "pretty" one, and Fe the "normal" one. Esperanza, the college-educated reporter, joined a Chicano rights organization and discovered that the men were only...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
Episode 2 Summary
Episode 2: Esperanza
Esperanza never seems at ease with her life. She is torn between her love for Ruben and her desire for a career. When her mother criticizes her for sleeping with Ruben, suggesting that Ruben is not going to "buy the cow if he gets the milk for free,'' Esperanza answers that she is not a cow. She turns down a job in Houston, Texas, because that is where Ruben's ex-wife will be living. She begins seeing Ruben again, but realizes that he only wants sex and not a relationship; she breaks it off before he has a chance to. She then takes a job at a national network in Washington, DC.
Esperanza is soon assigned to the Persian Gulf to cover the war there. She is killed on the job, but her body is never recovered. Sofi and Domingo are invited to Washington, DC, to receive a medal in her honor. Later Esperanza appears as a ghost to comfort her mother and play with her sister, La Loca.
(The entire section is 171 words.)
Episode 3 Summary
Episode 3: Caridad
Caridad' s life is rich in both events and spirituality. After she recovers from her attack, she moves out of the family home and begins her spiritual training at the hands of Dona Felica, an elderly healer. Dona Felica and Caridad go on several pilgrimages to local shrines that tend to mix Pagan ritual with Catholic Christian symbolism and theology. At one of these shrines, Caridad falls in love with another woman, not so much in a sexual way but more in a spiritual way. She and this young woman eventually become friends, after Caridad has spent a year meditating in a cave, and her abilities to heal and channel spirits greatly increase. She meets Dona Felica's godson, Francisco, a devoted sculptor. He becomes fixated on Caridad, both as a spiritual holy woman and as a target of lust. Just as Caridad finds happiness with Woman-on-the-Wall, Francisco's urge to remove her influence from his life becomes unbearable. He pursues Caridad and her lover, threatening them both with rape and murder. Caridad chooses to leap to her death from a pueblo rather than risk being murdered by her stalker. Like Esperanza's, Caridad's body is never found.
(The entire section is 197 words.)
Episode 4 Summary
Episode 4: Sofi's Turn
At this point in the novel, Castillo uses flashback to describe the relationship between Sofi and Domingo, thus setting the stage for the rest of the story. Sofi and Domingo met at her cousin's quinceañera, a traditional Latin American coming-out party marking a girl's fifteenth year. Domingo was charming and gorgeous, and Sofi fell in love with him. He crashed Sofi's quinceañera the next year and they danced all night long. Three years later they married and had a baby girl once every three years until Domingo had gambled away all the land that Sofi had inherited from her father. He abandoned her soon after La Loca's conception and did not return until the child was a teenager. Although Domingo tries to straighten himself out, he can't; he loses even the house Sofi lives in. At that point, she divorces him and decides to live for herself. She organizes the laborers into unions and cooperatives, then runs for mayor of the unincorporated area. She puts her energies into making her community better, bringing in a real hospital instead of the clinic where her daughter had been declared dead after an epileptic seizure, attracting real grocery stores, and improving the roads, sewer system, and water supply system. She also comes to terms with the deaths of Esperanza and Caridad.
(The entire section is 223 words.)
Episode 5 Summary
Episode 5: Fe
Fe never really recovers from her year of screaming after Tom canceled the wedding, but she does manage to get on with her life. She was always more grounded than any of her sisters, and she soon returns to work at the bank. She falls in love with (or settles for) her cousin Casimiro, an accountant. They eventually marry and try to start a family. However, soon after her wedding, Fe leaves her job at the bank to work at a parts cleaning factory. She hears that workers can make good money and if they do as they are told, there are bonuses as well. Fe is a very good and careful worker. She is soon promoted and given more special assignments with various chemicals. No one ever explains the dangers to Fe and she does not think to ask because she cannot believe that her bosses would not care about her health. Fe discovers that she has terminal cancer when she fails to get pregnant and she seeks help from a fertility specialist. While the company offers to pay a small amount, Fe hires a lawyer to sue the company which is now under investigation by the government. Fe's illness makes her research the chemicals that she used and her horror and shock at what these chemicals do to human tissue is real and terrifying. Like her sisters, she dies unfulfilled; her body, or what is left of it, is cremated and buried next to the tombstones of Esperanza and Caridad.
(The entire section is 254 words.)
Episode 6-7 Summary
Episode 6: Loca
Sofi and Domingo's youngest child has no better luck that her sisters. Her seeming death as a young child, which was actually an epileptic seizure that left her with no vital signs, and her miraculous return from the dead made her special. She spends her time talking to the animals, birds, and ghosts of the neighborhood. She is able to talk to both Esperanza's and Caridad's ghosts, and this comforts her mother. However, as the years go by, she becomes weaker and more withdrawn. Two faith healers, Dr. Tolentino and Dona Felica, could not cure her, although both tried for many months. Tolentino tries to psychically remove numerous growths from her stomach and intestines, while Felica gives her teas to improve her strength and appetite, but nothing works. In actuality, La Loca has AIDS, although the story does not reveal how she got it. Soon La Loca dies—a true death this time—and is buried with her sisters. Sofi mourns yet again.
In a very real way, So Far From God revolves around the search of one woman for the meaning of life. After La Loca's death, Sofi gives up trying to be a good daughter, wife, and mother. She asks herself, ‘‘What's the use? Christalmighty!’’ When Sofi decides that she no longer has to care for her parents, her husband, her daughters, her land, her shop, or her community, she finds out that she herself is the most important person in her life. She founds an...
(The entire section is 265 words.)