(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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.


(The entire section is 894 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations 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.)