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So Far from God: A Novel, by Ana Castillo.

March 12, 2012

So Far from God: A Novel, by Ana Castillo. W. W. Norton Company (2005), Paperback,256 pages.

A novel of the miracles and tragedies of a Chicana mother and her four daughters in a central New Mexico village.
Read for the Read and Resist Banned Books Challenge created by Melissa at FeministTexan.

Castillo immerses readers in the particular world of Hispanic New Mexico villages: their people, their beliefs, and their language. Her writing is intense, sweeping readers into laughter and pain and back again. Supernatural forces move in and out of the story, yet the circumstances of the characters are all too real as they deal with everything from war in the Middle East to the loss of ancestral land. Traditional religion, Roman Catholic and native, are interwoven with political protests.

The women on whom the book focuses are strong and unique. Sophie, the mother, has raised her daughters alone and goes on to organize her village to be financially viable. Her “four fated daughters” each take a different path. Esperanza is a rebel who pursues her own career, Fe is a perfectionist housewife working in a toxic factory, Caridad is a mystic lesbian, and Loco—who died and was resurrected at age three—goes on to live a secluded existence.

I enjoyed So Far from God, although I felt strangely and yet appropriately distant from the world it described. , I was an outsider, privileged to watch and reaching for my Spanish-English dictionary every few pages. But it was more than the language. I felt that Castillo was not writing for me but for her own people, those who would recognize the people and places she described. It is not a bad thing, for an Anglo like myself, to feel excluded now and then.

I recommend this book, particularly to Hispanics in New Mexico and Arizona and especially in Tucson where it has been banned. And to those of us who need and want to know more about those who too often seem like strangers.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2012 5:55 am

    >> I was an outsider, privileged to watch

    I felt this way too. I loved the peek into the community! Have you read any of her other books? I only read this one last year, but I definitely want to see what else she has up her sleeve.

    • March 17, 2012 10:24 am

      Thanks. I thought my reaction was strange. I was happy being an observer. No I have read any of her others

  2. March 23, 2012 12:49 am

    I just read this too, on Eva’s suggestion! I’m from New Mexico, so near to the places she writes about and yet still so far, in most ways…also an Anglo outsider, but familiar enough to get by easily without an english/spanish dictionary 🙂 An interesting and enjoyable experience, for sure.

  3. March 24, 2012 10:03 am

    Thanks to another Anglo outsider. Why do we think we always need to “relate” and not just observe–which is another kind of pleasure?

    I, too, know and love that NM land which kept me grounded in the book, but I have spent my time there in cars and on trails and didn’t have the language.

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