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Characters are not particularly important to this book. They are needed, of course, to play their parts in the Divine Order, but none is developed as a unique personality. With lives and bodies both disposable, not even the characters themselves can become too attached to any particular manifestation of their essence. Even death loses its sting, since one can always return in a new body and continue the mission assigned to him. Azucena, in her present life alone, occupies three bodies—her original one, which becomes pregnant; her blonde one with the shapely legs, who dies in the escape attempt; and the blind, elderly one that she borrows from Cuquita's grandmother, and in which she accomplishes her mission. For her reward, she gets to reclaim the first body and her newborn daughter, conveniently delivered by Ex-Azucena before the transfer.

Characters have distinguishing traits that tend to keep them from fulfilling their mission. Azucena's are her impulsiveness and impatience, which often lead to bad decisions and refusal to heed advice offered by her angel Anacreonte, and her poor self-image, which makes her feel deep down that she does not deserve happiness. The evil Isabel, while strong on the surface, is plagued by distrust and fear, which caused her as a young girl to run away and to experience panic attacks even now at her moments of greatest triumph, as on the day she is chosen the Americas' candidate for Planetary President. Her need for control is relieved only by her compulsive solitaire playing.

Other key characters are even less fully developed. Citlali is defined by the graceful swaying of her broad hips, which can put Rodrigo under her spell no matter what century she inhabits. Rodrigo himself is quite limited. We are told from the start that his beliefs never went beyond what he could grasp with his hands, and since what he grasped that day were the stones of the Temple of Love, he was from then on that goddess' slave. Only a rare minor character, like the comic Cuquita, Azucena's landlady, with her repulsive husband, her sharp wit (she was a film critic in a former life), her love for gadgets (the televirtual set, her cybernetic Ouija), and her honesty, seems like a real person.

What is intriguing and challenging about Esquivel's characters is the often complicated connection between the characters' various lives. She supplies snatches of former lives that allow her readers to construct composite identities for individual souls. For example, Azucena, child of Citlali, murdered in 1521 by Rodrigo, becomes the love child of Rodrigo and Citlali more than three centuries later; this child is in turn murdered by Isabel in a fit of jealous rage during the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. In that twentieth-century life, Isabel is both Citlali's mother and Azucena's grandmother, as well as Rodrigo's wife (she is divorced from Citlali's birth father). Citlali's stepfather, Rodrigo, is also Citlali's lover. In her present life, Azucena is Isabel's first daughter, condemned to disintegration because of a prophecy that she will topple her mother from power. Part of the Divine Plan is to have characters encounter each other in a variety of relationships so that they can eventually get it right and reach repentance and forgiveness for past wrongs. Rodrigo has been, for example, Citlali's lover (at least twice), the victim of rape by Citlali (when she was a man and he a woman), Isabel's husband (in the sixteenth century), Azucena's father (during the 1985 earthquake), and Azucena's lover and (by Divine Plan) her twin-soul. Together Azucena and Rodrigo produce a child of love, "born without...

(This entire section contains 626 words.)

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a moment's pain, in absolute harmony. She came into a world that welcomed her with open arms," the perfect symbol of the resolution of all those past lives.


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Anacreonte Azucena's guardian angel, who tries to help her with her mission to reinstate the Law of Love. For most of the novel, however, Azucena refuses to communicate with him, preferring to work on her own. Anacreonte gets peevish when Azucena will not take his direction.

Azucena Azucena is a ‘‘highly evolved’’ Super-Evo who gets preferential treatment in the novel's future society. As an astroanalyst in twenty-third-century Mexico City, she helps others regress to their past lives in order to provide them with harmony in their present lives. She is too proud to ask for Anacreonte's help on her quest to reunite with Rodrigo, her "twin soul,'' or with her mission to help bring peace to the planet through the reinstatement of the Law of Love. She, like Rodrigo, still has ‘‘some outstanding debts to pay,’’ and so they are allowed to merge souls only on one occasion. ‘‘Her lack of self-confidence had prevented her from forming a stable relationship in the past ... [D]eep down, she had always felt she didn't deserve happiness; yet she still had had a profound need to feel loved. It was in an effort to resolve these problems that she had decided to find her twin soul, thinking that with him she couldn't go wrong.’’ Throughout the novel Azucena wavers between optimism and pessimism over her relationship with Rodrigo and the fate of the universe. Ultimately, with the help of her friends, she is able to stay on track and fulfill both of her goals.

Mr. Bush The American candidate for Planetary President. Bush's assassination ‘‘presaged a return to an age of violence that everyone believed had been left behind’’ for more than a century, which makes Azucena's quest even more urgent.

Citlali The novel opens with Rodrigo raping Citlali, an Aztec princess who had become his slave. Citlali's privileged upbringing helped develop her ‘‘great pride verging on defiance.’’ Her sensuality causes Rodrigo to fall in love with her. Rodrigo earlier had killed her son, and as a result, Citlali vowed revenge. When she subsequently murders the son of Rodrigo and Isabel, she unwittingly starts a battle between herself and Isabel that is not played out until the end of the novel, several centuries later. In their next parallel lives, she and Isabel become brothers. After Citlali rapes Isabel's wife, Isabel murders her. The Law of Love influences their next reincarnation when Isabel becomes mother to her daughter Citlali. Azucena appears in the mix when Citlali and Rodrigo give birth to her. With Azucena's help, Citlali is able to forgive Rodrigo and Isabel for their past crimes against her.

Cuquita The superintendent of Azucena's apartment building. In one of her past lives she was a film critic and so has "dubious credibility.’’ Initially Azucena and Cuquita did not get along because Cuquita was ‘‘a social malcontent’’ who belonged to the Party for the Retribution of Inequities. Cuquita had always spied on Azucena, ‘‘trying to catch her at something ... in order not to feel so inferior to her.'' When Azucena turns to Cuquita for help, however, Cuquita's compassionate nature emerges. Toward the end of the novel, Cuquita's desire to help Azucena is so strong that she becomes the ideal medium for Anacreonte to convey a message to his protegee.

Rodrigo Diaz Azucena's soulmate and the object of her quest throughout the novel. The novel begins with Rodrigo as a Spanish conquistador in a past life and his rape of Citlali. "Rodrigo entered her body the same way he made his way through life: with the luxury of violence.’’ He was, however, ‘‘not easy to fathom. Two people lived inside him. A gentle, loving side and a restless violent one.’’ After a series of reincarnations, where he often commits violent acts against the other characters, he is reunited with Azucena.

Dr. Diez Dr. Diez, Azucena's friend and her colleague at the clinic, invents a new device that photographs a person's aura and detects traces of others who have been in contact with that person. Isabel orders him killed after he plants a device in her head that will prevent anyone from learning about her past lives.

Divine SingerSee Teo

Ex-Azucena One of Isabel's guards, who through a mixup now inhabits Azucena's old body. Ex-Azucena discovers he/she is pregnant with, as we later learn, Azucena Rodrigo's child. As a result, Isabel fires him/her. By the end of the novel, Ex-Azucena dies and Azucena returns to her body.

Carmela Gonzales Carmela is Isabel's daughter. Carmela's obesity embarrasses her mother. Ex-Azucena's and Azucena's friendship and attention cause her self-image to improve, which enables her to lose weight. She fills in several details of her mother's villainous deeds during the trial, feeling no loyalty to her.

Isabel Gonzales The merciless and ambitious villain in the novel, Isabel "eliminates whatever must be eliminated without a trace of remorse.’’ She ‘‘provokes wars, practices corruption, and abuses the privileges of power. After she becomes a primary candidate for Planetary President, she becomes paranoid that everyone around her is an enemy. She orders her daughter disintegrated for one hundred years when she learns she will grow up with a strong will that might challenge her mother's. In past lives, she had murdered Citlali and Azucena and had been desperately in love with Rodrigo. After Isabel is pronounced guilty, Azucena forgives her, which results in Isabel's change of heart.

Grandmother Azucena occupies the body of Cuquita's blind grandmother after her own dies. The elderly, disabled body takes some getting used to.

Ricardo Rodriquez Cuquita's drunken husband who beats her and her grandmother. Rodrigo exchanges bodies with him during his escape from Korma, leaving Ricardo behind to deal with the planet's Stone Age inhabitants and Isabel's wrath.

Teo Teo, an undercover Guardian Angel, notices Azucena's pain over Rodrigo's attentions to Citlali and comforts her. Their subsequent sexual encounters help return Azucena's optimism and enable her to carry on her mission. In an earlier reincarnation Teo had been the Divine Singer, who would dance small gods on the palm of his hand and speak through them. His hands and tongue were cut off after being arrested for disobeying the royal edict forbidding clay idols.




Critical Essays