So Far from God Summary
So Far from God by Ana Castillo is a magical realist novel about four sisters and their mother living in present-day Tome, New Mexico.
- Sofia's youngest daughter, La Loca, attains supernatural powers following her resurrection at the age of three.
- La Loca's three older sisters—Esperanza, Caridad, and Fe—experience romantic setbacks, personal crises, and mysterious supernatural events, eventually either dying or disappearing.
- La Loca, who is considered a local saint, dies from AIDS, and Sofia founds an organization called M.O.M.A.S. (Mothers of Martyrs and Saints).
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 894
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...
(The entire section contains 1337 words.)
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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.
Unlike her two older sisters, who seem doomed to failed relationships, Fe, the third daughter, appears fine until she receives a letter breaking off her engagement. Unable to cope with this loss, Fe suffers a nervous breakdown, and only a miracle eventually restores her. Before that miracle, Sofia, Esperanza, and La Loca have to deal with yet another crisis—the vicious attack, horrible mutilation, and near death of Caridad. The simultaneous miraculous restoration of Caridad and cure of Fe trigger a series of changes in the family. Following the incident, Domingo, the girls’ wayward father, reappears and tentatively resumes his life with Sofia; Esperanza accepts a dangerous assignment to cover the Persian Gulf War; Caridad—now gifted with foresight and prophecy—moves out and apprentices herself to doña Felicia, an eccentric curandera, or witch woman; Fe also moves out and resumes her job at the bank. La Loca remains at home and prays.
While covering the war, Esperanza and her news crew disappear and are presumed captured in Saudi Arabia. Her unknown fate becomes the focal point for both her family and the media community until La Loca informs her mother that Esperanza has been killed. Without the attendant news coverage, Caridad also undergoes a profound, life-changing encounter: Accompanying doña Felicia on her yearly pilgrimage to Chimayo, Caridad falls in love with Esmeralda, a mysterious woman. Unsure how to deal with the effect of Esmeralda and with her renewed emotions, Caridad also disappears. The fate of Sofia’s missing daughters is partially resolved when Caridad is discovered exiled in the desert. For a time following her return, Caridad is regarded as a local folk saint. Although severely tested by the fates that have befallen her daughters, Sofia, who continues to believe in the power of faith and in the principles of social change advocated by her war-hero daughter, decides to run for mayor of Tome. Protected from the world in the cocoon of her mother’s rancheria, La Loca continues to pray.
Fe appears close to achieving her quest for the American Dream in her marriage to her cousin Casimiro. The epitome of middle-class consumer utopia—complete with a three-bedroom, two-car-garage tract home and new sedan—deteriorates into a horrid nightmare. In order to afford the amenities of the good life, Fe quits her dead-end job at the bank and takes a job with a mysterious chemical company; the result is her slow, excruciating death from toxic poisoning. While her sisters have been victims of misguided social policies, Caridad becomes the victim of the misguided obsession of one man, Francisco el Penitente. Viewing Caridad as his God-chosen mate, Francisco begins to stalk her. Completely unbalanced after he uncovers Caridad’s friendship with Esmeralda, Francisco abducts and rapes Esmeralda. When he continues to stalk them, the women commit suicide by leaping from a cliff.
The final tragedy which Sofia must face is the death of her youngest daughter, La Loca, from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Facing death as she had lived, with courage and acceptance, La Loca, once again elevated to the status of saint, becomes the patron of her community. Rather than end tragically, the novel returns to the themes of survival, endurance, and heroic triumph in Sofia’s founding of M.O.M.A.S., an eccentric organization for the mothers of martyrs and saints.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443
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 with Esmeralda, a lesbian whose Mexican roots mystically connect them. The two die holding hands, leaping from a mesa, called by a Mexican deity. Unlike Fe, who was “plain dead,” they achieve a mythological status, “living forever . . . in the safe, dark earth.” Esperanza, a television journalist and the only college-educated sister, is kidnapped and killed in Saudi Arabia. Emotionally connected to the Native American church, her visionary form converses with Caridad. La Loca, the youngest and most visionary, dies of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) even though she has had no physical contact with people other than her mother and sister since the age of three.
Sofia endures. Abandoned by Don Domingo, her gambling husband who returns twenty years later, she raises her daughters alone. Not deterred by her tragedies, she establishes herself as mayor and organizes cooperatives to improve the economic stability of the impoverished town. The novel ends with her founding of the Society of Mothers of Martyrs and Saints as a tribute to La Loca. This act takes a sardonic twist as the society develops into a touristy purveyor of kitsch. Consistent with the oral tradition, the novel relates cherished Hispanic traditions. As a scathing commentary of the complexities of the Chicana existence, it also portends cultural decline.