So far from God
This novel is a story of a Chicano family. Sofi, her husband Domingo together with their four daughters – Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and Loca live in the little town of Tome, New Mexico. The story focuses on the struggles of Sofi, the death of her daughters and the problems of their town. Sofi endures all the hardships and problems that come her way. Her marriage is deteriorating; her daughters are dying one by one. But, she endures it all and comes out stronger and more enlightened than ever. Sofi is a woman that never gives up no matter how poorly life treats her. The author- Ana Castillo mixes religion, super natural occurrences, sex, laughter and heartbreak in this novel. The novel is tragic, with no happy ending but at the same time funny and inspiring. It is full of the victory of the human spirit. The names of Sofi’s first three daughters denote the three major Christian ideals (Hope, Faith and Charity).
Esperanza, the most liberated of the sisters, devoted her life to make other people’s lives better. She became a reporter and later on died while covering the Gulf Crisis. She returned home, to her family as a spirit. At first, she spoke through La Llorona, a messenger who informed La Loca that her sister has died. All her family members saw her. She appeared to her mother as a little girl who had a nightmare and went near to her mother for comfort. Caridad had conversations with her about politics and La Loca talked to her by the river behind their home.
Fe, the second daughter is the one who most subscribed to the traditions of her culture. She was jilted by her fiancé but later on found a new boyfriend. In order to secure a better future for them, Fe left her position at the bank for a higher paying job at an arms manufacturing company. She was soon promoted but the promotion proved fatal as the company exposed her to hazardous chemical. She died of cancer.
Caridad, after being abandoned by her husband, lived a promiscuous life. She was known for “loving anyone she met at the bars who vaguely resembled her husband Memo”. She was brutally raped and mangled by a mysterious spirit identity known as “Malogra”. However, she healed miraculously and from that moment on, she lost interest in men. She became an apprentice curandera, and during a religious pilgrimage, she saw a woman and she instantly fell in love with her. She found out that her obsessed stalker, Francisco raped Esmeralda – the woman of her affection. She jumped off a cliff while holding hands with Esmeralda as they were being pursued by Francisco. The people searched for their bodies but they were nowhere to be found. It was believed that they were taken by the deity “Tsicktinako” who led them deep within the soft, moist earth where they would be safe and live forever. Here the author connects her work to the Acoma creation myth in order to question the patriarchal constructions of Catholicism. The legend of Tsichtintako was adopted by the author.
La Loca died when she was just Three years old. One night, Sofi was awakened by the howling of the animals. She went to check on her daughters and found the baby, La Loca jerking and foaming in the mouth. The entire town of Tome mourned for the death of La Loca. Domingo, Sofi’s husband did not come to the funeral. At the funeral mass, everyone was astonished when the seemingly dead child pushed open the lid of her coffin and flew onto the roof of the church. The child argued with the priest and claimed that she came back from Hell. She also claimed that all humans have odors that are akin to that which she smelled in the places she had passed through when she was dead. The townspeople called her “La Loca Santa”. They accepted the young girls return from the dead as being of a divine nature. She abhorred human touch and only allows the animals and her mother to touch her. Like her sisters, she was destined to die young. She was diagnosed with AIDS. On her death pilgrimage, the people canonized her and made her the saint of the kitchens, new brides and progressive grooms.
The town has a considerable host of curanderas, santeras, penitents and healers. These people have a particular way of interpreting God’s messages. They make use of the earth and its products to perform rituals and produce remedies. The characters in the novel combined Christianity with traditional beliefs and practices.
So far from God is a novel that incites rebellion against the norms and values of Chicano patriarchal society. The novel by Ana Castillo is concerned with the lives of the four Chicana sisters and their mother. Sofi as the head of her family created a home for her daughters, a space they can call their own. Her three older daughters left their home, in search of a more meaningful life in the “big world” outside. Her daughters had gone out into the world and had all eventually returned to their mother’s home. All three of them ( Esperanza, Fe, and Caridad) experienced traumas and cruelties in a world that is dominated by males. Only La Loca remained at home with her mother. She helped in healing her sisters’ spirit. Drawing on the legends of the second-century martyrs (Faith, Hope, Cahrity, and Sophia), of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas, and of Tsichtintako, the author revitalized and emboldened the representation of women, in the face of the ideological construction of supposed preternatural myths. The novel presents a religious realm in which, in spite of the established Catholicism people still follow traditional beliefs. Legendary figures interact with the main characters. The story is enhanced by the combination of real and mythic character. The legends that the author included in her work depict the complexity and richness of the Chicano heritage. This novel demonstrates how outrageous life is for a Mexican-American woman.
Sofi later on decided to run for Mayor de Tome. She wanted to improve the people’s lives and to protect their village against destruction. She became the spark that started the fire. She founded an organization, MOMAS (Mothers of Martyrs and Saints). After the death of her daughters, Sofi dedicated her life on improving Tome and helping the people of the village.