Delia is the title character and the consciousness through which the novel is largely filtered. A young woman—a freshman from a Mexican heritage at the University of California at Berkeley—Delia struggles to come to terms with a painful past, a confusing present, and an uncertain future. The reader is initially confused about her identity; not only is she disguised as a saint, she is lost and distraught. The opening scream of pain (one of many interjected italicized poetic passages reflecting nightmarish eruptions of memory) introduces the question that is the novel’s focus: Who, really, is Delia Trevino?
That Delia has some unresolved personal pain is evident in the flashback narrative, told in italicized stream-of-consciousness passages. The flashbacks reveal the heroine’s disturbance over the violent deaths of her two brothers, Sebastian and Ricardo, and indicate her conflicted relationship with her mother and father, who devalue this intelligent and sensitive girl-child.
Coming from a Mexican heritage complete with folkloristic elements (seen in images of spicy, hot foods and Catholic iconography), Delia carries internally the burden of the family’s hopes, even when those hopes have been dashed by the loss of her brothers. She carries these turbulent feelings with her to college, but she remains distant, taciturn. She becomes, therefore, an attractive mystery to her influential professor, Mattie Johnson, and to the group of...
(The entire section is 585 words.)