In Isabel Allende’s1991 novel The Infinite Plan, the main character is Gregory Reeves, the son of a traveling preacher, Charles Reeves, who, in Allende’s telling,
“ . . .guided his small tribe by employing severe but clear-cut rules; all of them worked together, each fulfilling his duties; reward and punishment, cause and effect, a discipline based on a scale of immutable values.”
As Allende describes her protagonist, Gregory, his was a reasonably stable existence, frequent moves aside, because of his father’s strict standards and expectations. Charles’ death, however, destabilizes Gregory’s life and he was subsumed with a rage when his reality “. . . began, irreparably, to deteriorate.” Gregory’s life from then on is one unrelenting anger and dispossession. Rendered destitute by his father’s death – the income from whose preaching was meager to begin with – Gregory’s family ends up living in a barrio in Los Angeles from where the European-American family begins to immerse itself in the Hispanic culture surrounding it. It is during this phase of his life that Gregory encounters the second main character in The Infinite Plan, Carmen Morales, the daughter of a Latino couple who take Gregory into their home and provide a sense of family. For the remainder of the book, Gregory and Carmen lead parallel lives, each fraught with emotional and sometimes physical pain, as when Carmen is ostracized by her community following an aborted pregnancy. A third character who plays a prominent role is Carmen’s brother Juan, who becomes Gregory’s friend and fellow Vietnam veteran, and who, Allende points out,
“. . .had an unfailing nose for tragedy [and who] always knew where the automobile accidents occurred, the assaults and knife fights and murders.”
It is in Vietnam that, unsurprisingly, Gregory’s mental state faces another major transformation, as what is today referred to post-traumatic stress disorder sets in and invades his subconscious.
Gregory’s life evolves as an unsuccessful progression of marriages tinged with alcoholism and a failure to parent his own children. The one constant throughout his life is Carmen, who provides a voice of reason and emotional stability as he threatens to spiral out of control. Carmen has pursued her own life independent of Gregory and eventually finds her own inner peace, as will, in the end, Gregory.
The protagonist of Allende's The Infinite Plan is Gregory Reeves, the son of a preacher whose claim that we are all governed by the universe's 'infinite plan' is how the novel derives its title. The secondary character is Carmen Morales, Greg's best friend, who, though she plays second fiddle to Greg in terms of character importance, is no less a contributor to the larger arc of the story.