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).

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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.

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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...

(The entire section contains 1337 words.)

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