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So Far from God

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Sofia and her fated daughters, Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and la Loca, endure hardship and enjoy love in the sleepy New Mexico hamlet of Tome, a town teeming with marvels where the comic and the horrific, the real and the supernatural, reside.


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Sofia and her fated daughters, Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and la Loca, endure hardship and enjoy love in the sleepy New Mexico hamlet of Tome, a town teeming with marvels where the comic and the horrific, the real and the supernatural, reside.

30 review for So Far from God

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I loved this book. It's kind of magical realism for the North American feminist. Growing up in a catholic feminist family with my mom and 3 sisters and a dad who was there -- but not so much -- the story felt like a dramatic and whimsical telling of themes I've lived. Like Ana Castillo, I've lived in Chicago and New Mexico, so the terrain and language felt pretty familiar, too. It's a fun fast read and it's one of those books where you pick up odd little random facts such as: * what really goes on I loved this book. It's kind of magical realism for the North American feminist. Growing up in a catholic feminist family with my mom and 3 sisters and a dad who was there -- but not so much -- the story felt like a dramatic and whimsical telling of themes I've lived. Like Ana Castillo, I've lived in Chicago and New Mexico, so the terrain and language felt pretty familiar, too. It's a fun fast read and it's one of those books where you pick up odd little random facts such as: * what really goes on in conglomerate factories, * peacocks possess an annoying bawl in lieu of birdsong, * how modern priests are often afraid of little girls * what to expect in a community religious procession or pilgrimage * why men pretending to spiritual enlightenment should be avoided like one of the seven plagues It has some heavy-handed conceits and symbolism -- especially in the way the daughters named Esperanza, Fe, Caridad and La Loca of all things are actualized and personified. But it's a silly, fun, trip through the lives of women distilled through the perspective of mothers.daughters/sisters. Incidentally, the title comes from a quote by Porfirio Diaz, "¡Pobre México! ¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!" (Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Agnė

    WHAT IT IS ABOUT: “So Far From God” by Ana Castillo is a peculiar magical realism novel set in a small village of Tome in New Mexico. Abandoned by her gambling husband, Sofia single-handedly raises four daughters: Esperanza, an ambitious news reporter; Fe, a jilted bride suffering from a nervous breakdown; Caridad, a promiscuous nurse who is mutilated by a mysterious creature; and saintly La Loca who dies at the age of three and after resurrection avoids human contact. This unusual Chicano family WHAT IT IS ABOUT: “So Far From God” by Ana Castillo is a peculiar magical realism novel set in a small village of Tome in New Mexico. Abandoned by her gambling husband, Sofia single-handedly raises four daughters: Esperanza, an ambitious news reporter; Fe, a jilted bride suffering from a nervous breakdown; Caridad, a promiscuous nurse who is mutilated by a mysterious creature; and saintly La Loca who dies at the age of three and after resurrection avoids human contact. This unusual Chicano family’s saga has a little bit of everything, from tragedy to comedy, from realism to miracles, from cultural heritage to feminism. THUMBS UP: 1) Worthwhile. “So Far From God” is quite odd but it is nonetheless an engaging and moving read. And the more I think about it, the better it gets! It took me a while to get used to the author’s writing style but I grew to love it - her voice is strong and her narration is very readable, kind of gossipy. My favorite part is the later chapter on Fe - so tragically realistic and thought-provoking! 2) Tasteful magical realism. In “So Far From God,” magical realism is subtle and often morphs into symbolism. The events can be explained away or at least understood as metaphors (with a few exceptions, namely, what the hell happened to Caridad and Esmeralda?), thus I would recommend this novel to the novice reader of the genre. 3) Authentic. “So Far From God” has an authentic vibe as it is loaded with a blend of Chicano, Native American and Anglo cultures: folklore, local wisdom, religious beliefs, home remedies and even recipes. Plus, the language is authentic too as there are a LOT of words, phrases and even sentences in Spanish and a few obscure grammatical structures. 4) Thought-provoking. Although Castillo’s tone is humorous and upbeat, this novel brings to light a lot of serious issues such as global violence, worker exploitation, violation of health and safety standards, environmental contamination, gross materialism and female discrimination. Plus, the story is told from a strong feminist perspective as all four of its protagonists, in their own way, break the stereotypical image of a Chicana woman. COULD BE BETTER: 1) Slow beginning. I had a hard time getting into the story. The narrator’s voice just seemed too distant, making it hard to relate to or care about the characters. Eventually, I got used to the writing style and enjoyed the story but not before I read almost a hundred pages. 2) Spanish overload. As I mentioned before, there is A LOT of Spanish in this book. The upside: authenticity. The downside: I don’t speak Spanish, so I had to use a dictionary. A LOT. 3) Chapter titles. The chapter titles are extra long. They basically summarize the whole upcoming chapter (yes, spoilers included). VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5 Ana Castillo’s magical realism novel “So Far From God” is a charmingly odd and charismatic take on the lives of Chicana women. Although a little bit slow at first, this book is worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    elisa

    so far from god scratches all of my magical realist itches, particularly the strain of magical realism that is unique to xicana writers: matriarchs, medicine/brujería, food as a love language, and the sort of southwestern tongue born of borderland living. and yet, it fell short of my expectations in a lot of ways. i think this is one of those instances where the expository storytelling technique didn't work for me and actually blunted the impact of all the emotional writing and character develop so far from god scratches all of my magical realist itches, particularly the strain of magical realism that is unique to xicana writers: matriarchs, medicine/brujería, food as a love language, and the sort of southwestern tongue born of borderland living. and yet, it fell short of my expectations in a lot of ways. i think this is one of those instances where the expository storytelling technique didn't work for me and actually blunted the impact of all the emotional writing and character development i hoped for. i wanted more out of the story, i was left unsatisfied by the wlw subplot, and i wish the writing hadn't dragged in so many places. in spite of that, this text holds a lot of personal and academic value to me in all that it taught me about the literary movement, so i'm giving it a solid three stars for what i've been able to take from it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Castillo's writing is fast and quick with a hodge-podge of fantastic code-switching and pop Chicano cultural references. The story sometimes went all over the place, but even that suited the off-the-hip style. There's something about Castillo's writing -- it hooks me, and it's an easy, interesting read. I think that maybe more than her books, I am falling in love with Ana Castillo herself. Her voice is very strong, and I imagine her out there in the world, with clear, sharp eyes and a deep laugh Castillo's writing is fast and quick with a hodge-podge of fantastic code-switching and pop Chicano cultural references. The story sometimes went all over the place, but even that suited the off-the-hip style. There's something about Castillo's writing -- it hooks me, and it's an easy, interesting read. I think that maybe more than her books, I am falling in love with Ana Castillo herself. Her voice is very strong, and I imagine her out there in the world, with clear, sharp eyes and a deep laugh and perception that could cut through ice.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This is a book that is much busier than it first appears. Castillo has written a novel that, on the surface, appears to be a kind of folksy, magical realism tale about a mother and the incredible fated lives of her four daughters. Below the surface we have a novel that intertwines Catholicism, indigenous (to the Southwest of present day U.S.A.)religion and Mexican American folk beliefs to build a striking critique of patriarchy, capitalism, and the consequences of unrestrained globalism. Some pe This is a book that is much busier than it first appears. Castillo has written a novel that, on the surface, appears to be a kind of folksy, magical realism tale about a mother and the incredible fated lives of her four daughters. Below the surface we have a novel that intertwines Catholicism, indigenous (to the Southwest of present day U.S.A.)religion and Mexican American folk beliefs to build a striking critique of patriarchy, capitalism, and the consequences of unrestrained globalism. Some people may not enjoy a book where nearly every character is a walking,talking symbol, but this worked for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maya

    An all time fav. Should I go grad school and just read Chicanx lit all the time?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I first read this book when it was assigned in one of my college classes back in the early 2000s. I loved it then, and after a re-read of my battered college copy, I love it even more now. I’m a güera from New England, but after living in Texas for a decade and a half and having the privilege of working closely with Latino families as a nurse, my appreciation for this story knows no limits. This book feels like a long, winding conversation around the dinner table with an ultra-feminist, left-win I first read this book when it was assigned in one of my college classes back in the early 2000s. I loved it then, and after a re-read of my battered college copy, I love it even more now. I’m a güera from New England, but after living in Texas for a decade and a half and having the privilege of working closely with Latino families as a nurse, my appreciation for this story knows no limits. This book feels like a long, winding conversation around the dinner table with an ultra-feminist, left-wing tía dishing out all the good chisme. This book hit all my sweet spots and then some. The code-switching; the recipe sharing; and the everyday, working-woman’s social justice messaging woven throughout is just what I needed to read in today’s capitalist right-wing hellscape of conspiracy theories promulgated to keep a narcissist demagogue in power after the American people voted in historic numbers to end his assault on democracy and decency (oh my god I sound just like my grandmother, may she rest in peace and power ✊🏼). Without spoiling anything, I’m struck by how so many of the issues tackled by this novel are relevant today, even though it was published in 1993. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially anyone who speaks Spanish, is culturally Latinx, or who lives in the Southwest. And if none of those describe you? Read it anyway, because it’s fantastic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This novel was unlike any novel i've read before, in a good way. The narrative voice resembled in some ways that of an 18th- or early 19th-c novel, Dickensian almost, in its third-person omniscient stance. The chronicle of Sofi's four special daughters and their lives in northern New Mexico is realist, with magic (but not magical realism). I found myself loving all four of her girls, and Sofi herself, so much that I didn't want this book to end. The blend of Indigenous, Spanish, Chicana, and Ang This novel was unlike any novel i've read before, in a good way. The narrative voice resembled in some ways that of an 18th- or early 19th-c novel, Dickensian almost, in its third-person omniscient stance. The chronicle of Sofi's four special daughters and their lives in northern New Mexico is realist, with magic (but not magical realism). I found myself loving all four of her girls, and Sofi herself, so much that I didn't want this book to end. The blend of Indigenous, Spanish, Chicana, and Anglo cultures and languages found in this book was just the antidote to some slight homesickness. (I live in Sweden but am US American.) I read it mostly because 1) I love New Mexico, 2) I have never read anything by Ana Castillo and felt that was a gap for me, and 3) I heard it has an environmental justice subplot. The EJ subplot was indeed quite "sub" but no less powerful, and I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in social justice, broadly speaking, and anyone who appreciates women-centered stories. In a small way it reminded me of -The Poisonwood Bible-, perhaps just with respect to following the stories of a mother and her four daughters as they face obstacles big and small. But mostly it does not remind of any other book because Castillo's voice is one of the most individual (and captivating) I have ever read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel León

    Why don’t more people talk about this fantastic novel???

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bhargavi Suryanarayanan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I usually don’t like magical realism, and if you're like me you'll find the writing style and plot a bit off-putting and disconcerting at first, but the book soon grows on you. My thesis guide introduced this book to me, suggesting I work on it for my thesis on post-colonial eco-feminism, so if you're interested in any of those domains, you should check this novel out. This is a second-gen-feminist work. Which means that men are pretty much the enemies: they're either shiftless gamblers (Sofi’s I usually don’t like magical realism, and if you're like me you'll find the writing style and plot a bit off-putting and disconcerting at first, but the book soon grows on you. My thesis guide introduced this book to me, suggesting I work on it for my thesis on post-colonial eco-feminism, so if you're interested in any of those domains, you should check this novel out. This is a second-gen-feminist work. Which means that men are pretty much the enemies: they're either shiftless gamblers (Sofi’s husband), stalkers and possibly rapists (Francisco, who pursues Caridad), cheating, sexist bastards (Ruben, Esperanza’s boyfriend) or cowards (Tom, Fe’s fiancé, who abandons her the day before the wedding via a letter). The only decent man is Fe’s cousin, whom we don’t get to see much of, and the Vietnamese doctor who briefly treats La Loca at the end. The novel is about how these women assert agency in the face of all these horrible men. Sofi bears the stigma of being called an abandoned woman for twenty years after her husband leaves her, only to realise at the end of the book that it was she who had asked him to leave and thus she hadn’t been abandoned at all. Caridad is brutally raped and mutilated one night but heals herself through Dona Felicia’s remedies, which have been passed down through generations of women. Spiritual faith heals her as well, along with her love for a Native American woman, Esmeralda. La Loca, the youngest, spends all her days doing as she pleases and avoiding the outside world (which sounds like heaven, not going to lie). Esperanza finally dumps Ruben and goes abroad, where she dies, but comes back as a ghost and develops a close friendship with all her family. Fe marries her cousin and achieves a better life than the guy who dumped her, at least temporarily. There isn't a deep exploration of the characters' feelings, and this gives the novel the feel of a folktale told around the fire. The novel has a dream-like quality and makes you feel removed from the scene and the characters, as though you are watching a drama through a glass without feeling personally invested in the action or the protagonists. For example, Sofi decides to become the Mayor of Tome and starts a town cooperative to generate employment among the women and lift everyone from poverty. In three paragraphs Castillo sketches the progress of these cooperatives and asserts that the town has been uplifted, reminiscent of old Tamil songs in which the hero goes from rags to riches over the course of a single song. The chapter with Fe at the end is the most moving and realistic of the lot. Fe works with harmful chemicals in a factory in a bid to earn a lot of money and have the life she has seen on TV – owning a car, a flat and modern household appliances and all the other trappings of middle-class life. She gets cancer owing to the dangerous chemicals, however, and dies a painful death. There’s a critique of Western medicine as well: La Loca refuses to go to a hospital to be treated for HIV, because in her mind the hospital is a place you go to die. There is a simplistic binary of native culture + nature = good and modern/American culture = bad but this is unsurprising given that the author wants to highlight the strengths of Chicano and native American cultures, especially of the women of these cultures, in a world that usually looks down on them. The novel is powerful because it shows how class and ethnicity and gender intersect to render certain people’s position in society precarious. All four daughters die over the course of the novel, and the worst part is that their deaths are all preventable, and are caused solely due to their marginalised positions in society. And yet the focus is not on these women as victims. Castillo emphasizes how powerful these women are even in their limited circumstances. And that makes this an inspiring book to read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kt

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it for a Women Writers in the West class in college, and it's the one that stuck with me the most (some other books in the course were Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey, Silko's Almanac of the Dead, Cather's My Antonia, and Kingsolver's The Bean Trees). Following in the traditions of Latin American magical-realism, the story itself is not amazing, but Castillo's rendition of the characters, as well as their individual reactions to the problems they' This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it for a Women Writers in the West class in college, and it's the one that stuck with me the most (some other books in the course were Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey, Silko's Almanac of the Dead, Cather's My Antonia, and Kingsolver's The Bean Trees). Following in the traditions of Latin American magical-realism, the story itself is not amazing, but Castillo's rendition of the characters, as well as their individual reactions to the problems they're confronted with, is beautiful. Castillo's rendition of women in the time of heartache, loss, poverty, love, and hope is a pleasure to read, making the book easy to read in one day. Hope you love it as much as I do!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanti

    This seems a bit unfocused - a lot going on in a rather short period of time and all the chapters are episodic and a bit non-sequential. Some of the cover blurbs compare it to a telenovela and that seems pretty fair. But judging from the title and the last quarter of the book especially, Ms. Castillo certainly has a political agenda and I'm not sure that the episodic nature of the family's story really did as much justice to her points as it could have. This seems a bit unfocused - a lot going on in a rather short period of time and all the chapters are episodic and a bit non-sequential. Some of the cover blurbs compare it to a telenovela and that seems pretty fair. But judging from the title and the last quarter of the book especially, Ms. Castillo certainly has a political agenda and I'm not sure that the episodic nature of the family's story really did as much justice to her points as it could have.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    castillo’s narrator tells the story of sofi and her four daughters in the tradition of oral story-telling. that, paired with the story’s setting in a small town of northern new mexico give this novel the feeling of sitting next to an older family member and being told one’s own family lore—it’s warm, inviting, and dignified. what kept this novel from being a moving piece rather than an entertaining one was the emotional distance from the four sisters (aside from Fe’s last chapter.) the only char castillo’s narrator tells the story of sofi and her four daughters in the tradition of oral story-telling. that, paired with the story’s setting in a small town of northern new mexico give this novel the feeling of sitting next to an older family member and being told one’s own family lore—it’s warm, inviting, and dignified. what kept this novel from being a moving piece rather than an entertaining one was the emotional distance from the four sisters (aside from Fe’s last chapter.) the only characters that really had any growth i found to be admirable were sofi and domingo. while their characters were interesting, the four sisters didn’t really have much development and i found claridad’s ending did her no justice. i had no information about her interior feelings, especially regarding esmerelda. the novel seemed to center claridad as the most major character, yet the motivations for her decisions seemed unfounded and more confusing than mysterious. she and her sisters felt purely ornamental even though the narrator spent so much time describing them—it was disappointing. i found the feminist label to be quite restrictive to this work. each of the women declare themselves independent from men at some point in the novel, and this is supposed to be for growth and liberation, but i feel as though castillo relies too heavily on these decisions to show true character growth. it works excellently for sofi bc the reader sees how the spell of attraction is broken and she is able to hold domingo accountable for his actions—an decision that is liberatory, radical, and admirable. however, with the four sisters, the reader is just supposed to assume that bc they are now separated from men they used to love, that they have grown and will continue to do so, but there lacked language in the text for me to be convinced that this was the case. it reminds me that liberation, though attached to systems and the relationships we have with them, requires internal and emotional work for it to be meaningful. it was such a privilege to read this book and learn so much about traditional and historical practices passed on between chicanx and indigenous cultures in the southwest region through a spiritual and medicinal lens. thus, it would be a disservice to sort castillo’s work into the magical realism genre; to do so would discredit the customs and cultures that very much rule the rio abajo of New Mexico. the magic is not realistic but real—for it is a product of the land and the characters’ multigenerational connection to it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Kreidler

    During the past few months I've been reading as much as I can to help educate myself to the culture, history, oppression, and passion of our Latinx sisters and brothers. This is perhaps the 10th book along that pathway, and likely the best thus far which is high praise among other wonderful books. Castillo's world isn't too far from the mystical realism of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, but takes place in northern New Mexico in recent times. Sofia is the Matriarch of 4 daughters, a wayward and worthles During the past few months I've been reading as much as I can to help educate myself to the culture, history, oppression, and passion of our Latinx sisters and brothers. This is perhaps the 10th book along that pathway, and likely the best thus far which is high praise among other wonderful books. Castillo's world isn't too far from the mystical realism of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, but takes place in northern New Mexico in recent times. Sofia is the Matriarch of 4 daughters, a wayward and worthless husband, entrepreneur, and eventually, self proclaimed mayor of her tiny village not far from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. That's all I'll offer here as to the story, which you need to read to enjoy, to become angry, to fall into despair, and to celebrate. I highly recommend this important novel published in '93 and more relevant than ever.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Breanne Brown

    I do think that every book has it’s place on a bookshelf somewhere with someone, how ever I am not that someone for this book. Initially I was intrigued with the Spanish text mixed in, however after a chapter or two it really became more frustrating to stop and look up the words my very limited knowledge of Spanish could not figure out. The flow of this story is also very choppy. You begin a chapter thinking the story is going in one direction, however a detail is added or a character is introdu I do think that every book has it’s place on a bookshelf somewhere with someone, how ever I am not that someone for this book. Initially I was intrigued with the Spanish text mixed in, however after a chapter or two it really became more frustrating to stop and look up the words my very limited knowledge of Spanish could not figure out. The flow of this story is also very choppy. You begin a chapter thinking the story is going in one direction, however a detail is added or a character is introduced and then suddenly you have derailed and have no idea what is happening. If there were subtle connections between these transitions, I was not able to grasp them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    As a magical realist text, Castillo’s work provides incredible wealth of material to analyze, discuss and compare and contrast to other works in this wonderful genre. The rich discourse generated from this novel makes be love and esteem it for its literary merit. The bold and distinctly feminist social and political commentary is thought provoking and entertaining. The characters, though tragic, are humorous and endearing in a quirky way. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alina Taylor

    Really enjoyed a lot of the book, a great mix of humor and taking on serious issues. Castillo had such a unique voice! Loved the elements of magical realism and little bits of chicanx culture spread throughout. Was not quite satisfied with the ending.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I loved this book. There's so much to analyze, such as the romantic and familial relationships as well as how religion and magical realism play a role in the novel. This was probably one of my favorite Mexican-American books I've ever read. I definitely recommend it! I loved this book. There's so much to analyze, such as the romantic and familial relationships as well as how religion and magical realism play a role in the novel. This was probably one of my favorite Mexican-American books I've ever read. I definitely recommend it!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Brilliant. Has a Gabriel García Márquez feel to it, but is also very woman-centered. Authentic and fanciful at the same time. Just read it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I was so close to loving Ana Castillo’s 1993 novel So Far From God. So Far From God takes place in a small village in New Mexico, where Sofi is taking care of her four daughters after her husband Domingo has left her. There’s Esperanza, the oldest daughter who works as a television reporter in the Middle East; Fe, who suffers a nervous breakdown when her engagement ends; Caridad, who is attacked by a mysterious creature, ends up living in a cave and becomes a saint to villagers because they beli I was so close to loving Ana Castillo’s 1993 novel So Far From God. So Far From God takes place in a small village in New Mexico, where Sofi is taking care of her four daughters after her husband Domingo has left her. There’s Esperanza, the oldest daughter who works as a television reporter in the Middle East; Fe, who suffers a nervous breakdown when her engagement ends; Caridad, who is attacked by a mysterious creature, ends up living in a cave and becomes a saint to villagers because they believe she has special powers; and La Loca, who dies as an toddler, but wakes up during her own funeral and lands on the church’s roof. And that’s just the first four chapters, folks. This book reminded me of Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which also focused on four daughters in a non-linear story. But Garcia Girls is a realistic book and, if you couldn’t tell already, So Far From God uses vast amounts of magic realism and myth. Sofi is the backbone of the family, running the family’s carnicería and even becoming the leader of her small village. Castillo keeps a light, conversational tone throughout the book even when the women suffer through some terrible tragedies. As Sofi says, “God gave me four daughters, and you would have thought that by now I would be a content grandmother, sitting back and letting my daughters care for me, bringing me nothing but their babies on Sundays to rock on my lap! But no, not my hijitas! I had to produce the kinds of species that flies!” I enjoyed the stories and I liked Castillo’s sense of humor. But Castillo packs so much into her sentences that I had to reread them and hunt for the verb. I was also annoyed by her frequent use of double negatives. I would accept this – reluctantly – if the book had a strong first person narrator or if it was used in the dialogue, but I didn’t think they were necessary. In fact, wanted to stab the book with a red pen so the double negatives would bleed to death. So, I just liked So Far From God when I could have loved it. Note: This review appeared on my blog, http://hispanicreader.com.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm really disappointed in So Far From God. I had been wanting to read it for awhile after falling in love with Peel My Love Like an Onion. My favorite portions of the story were those focusing on Sofia's exploits and the later chapter on Fe. The most hilarious and charming part of the book for me is when the narrator shows the family through the eyes of a somewhat busy-body neighbor. It's basically a short retelling of everything you've just read peppered with her own prejudices and the assumpti I'm really disappointed in So Far From God. I had been wanting to read it for awhile after falling in love with Peel My Love Like an Onion. My favorite portions of the story were those focusing on Sofia's exploits and the later chapter on Fe. The most hilarious and charming part of the book for me is when the narrator shows the family through the eyes of a somewhat busy-body neighbor. It's basically a short retelling of everything you've just read peppered with her own prejudices and the assumptions of one with incomplete knowledge. I wish the rest of the book was as colorful as the neighbor's chapter. While I think Castillo went to great effort to make it so, my opinion is that it fell flat. I also really don't like magical realism, which is something that's utterly strange and a bit incomprehensible to me given I love fantasy and science fiction. All of a sudden this highly "logical and rational" side comes out against flouting the already set "rules" of the world, which is rather frustrating to me. I also feel like I can't decipher if the author is trying to "say" something with improbable events and that makes me feel like an inadequate reader!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dragon Tran

    I could have really loved this book; I thought I was going to, for a significant portion of it. But over its trajectory, it dropped from a possible 4-star to a 2-star read. Castillo's writing is the best part: her style is incredibly and consistently fluid, vivid, and engaging. Unfortunately, Castillo uses these prodigious writing abilities to create a whole cast of likable, interesting characters, then proceeds to assail them almost exclusively with not-so-likable-or-interesting life events ove I could have really loved this book; I thought I was going to, for a significant portion of it. But over its trajectory, it dropped from a possible 4-star to a 2-star read. Castillo's writing is the best part: her style is incredibly and consistently fluid, vivid, and engaging. Unfortunately, Castillo uses these prodigious writing abilities to create a whole cast of likable, interesting characters, then proceeds to assail them almost exclusively with not-so-likable-or-interesting life events over the course of the book's meandering. I could easily have embraced this discursive style had there been any pay-off whatsoever to the work of following it. Likewise, I have enjoyed many books with tragic events and outcomes. But the tragedies of these characters' lives did not feel earned. They felt like cheap outs and escape routes to the lives of characters who deserved much more exploration and growth than they got. I have read too much well-done magical realism to accept this book's artistic accomplishments purely or primarily on that stylistic basis.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Todo el libro es un milagro. I should qualify that: although it's dense with the miraculous and out-there, it's the kind of miraculous, out-there stuff that really does happen in a small farming community in rural New Mexico. There is a good amount of Spanish in here and I didn't understand all of it, but I get the feeling I wasn't really meant to understand it. Because it's not really my world, it's the world of Mayor Sofi and her girls, and they talk how they talk and I am lucky just to eavesd Todo el libro es un milagro. I should qualify that: although it's dense with the miraculous and out-there, it's the kind of miraculous, out-there stuff that really does happen in a small farming community in rural New Mexico. There is a good amount of Spanish in here and I didn't understand all of it, but I get the feeling I wasn't really meant to understand it. Because it's not really my world, it's the world of Mayor Sofi and her girls, and they talk how they talk and I am lucky just to eavesdrop. Hats off.

  24. 4 out of 5

    La

    Loved reading this book with so many things I could relate to in my life. This story of a mother and her daughters takes the reader through the years with lots of traditions and at the same time a move toward the modern. A great read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I loved this book so much I found myself literally hugging it. I neglected so many other things just to sit down and take time reveling in it. Dreamy books like this are my favorite--I loved how timeless it felt even when it was very much of its time. I will return to this one, again and again.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    3.85. Loved it, flaws and all

  27. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Yea I love this book. There's another review of this book that took issue with the fact that the chapter titles had spoilers in it, but like sorry but thats stupid. It's not a spoiler if the author is disseminating the information for their OWN story in an order that THEY choose. Just because the plot is going non-linearly, and revealing information out of order doesn't mean that it's a ""spoiler."" In fact, that was one of the most interesting decisions that Castillo did in this book that had me Yea I love this book. There's another review of this book that took issue with the fact that the chapter titles had spoilers in it, but like sorry but thats stupid. It's not a spoiler if the author is disseminating the information for their OWN story in an order that THEY choose. Just because the plot is going non-linearly, and revealing information out of order doesn't mean that it's a ""spoiler."" In fact, that was one of the most interesting decisions that Castillo did in this book that had me hooked from the beginning. Setting up my expectations for what would happen didn't detract from my enjoyment of watching it all unfold AT ALL, which is proof of what a strong writer Castillo is and what command she has over this story. It's a feature, not a bug! The only thing that I could potentially say is negative in this book is the amount of violence and horribleness that happens to these women. Castillo definitely stays away from dipping into torture porn-- none of the tragic/sad things that happen in this book are described in too much detail, and all of it is focused on the recovery and aftermath of them. So yea. Caridad was my favorite of the daughters, and I can't really pinpoint why. Sure, she's gay as hell, but it's more than that. She just feels the most earnest and like she's working the hardest to do what's best for herself. Esperanza is great too, but no matter how much the narrator tried to tell me that she was the argumentative belligerent type, she just seemed so passive for most of her scenes. For example, Esperanza turned her back on good opportunities (that she KNEW were the best thing for herself) and chose something else multiple times, while Caridad did whatever it took to get herself right. She hung out at bars and stuff following her breakup and worked herself into a downward spiral, but even thereafter that she [redacted] and [redacted] because THAT was what was best for her. I really admired her ability to disregard what her family might expect of her and just take care of herself. My least favorite was Fe. I don't think that's a particularly unpopular opinion. She just has the kind of personality that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I think Castillo intended that. She was the type of person to resent Mexican-ness and embrace Anglo whiteness. She was snobby until her [redacted] and I couldn't relate to any of her goals. Nonetheless, towards the end of the book her plot involvement is some of the most moving and the most sympathetic. I really really felt for her, and it was more grounded in reality than the fates of the other three girls. I noticed a lot of stuff writing-wise that I want to use for my own stories. I just. Ugh. This is one of the first books in a while where I felt actual enjoyment from the process of reading it, where I really just didn't want it to end. I know a lot of people experience that regularly but I don't, and this book FILLED me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    There is so much I can say about this book. To be brief, though, Ana Castillo's So Far From God is a novel with many layers. I would not be so quick to label it as magical realist, although it contains elements of the magical, because the magical and the real are clearly distinct rather than mixed together, which is necessary in magical realism—a paradox itself. My present opinion is that Castillo utilizes magical realism in order to bring about questions among the characters that lead to real a There is so much I can say about this book. To be brief, though, Ana Castillo's So Far From God is a novel with many layers. I would not be so quick to label it as magical realist, although it contains elements of the magical, because the magical and the real are clearly distinct rather than mixed together, which is necessary in magical realism—a paradox itself. My present opinion is that Castillo utilizes magical realism in order to bring about questions among the characters that lead to real action that is without the magical. Sofia, for example, does not run for mayor of Tome, New Mexico (an unincorporated town that has never had a mayor, that is) until after the hardships she has faced, namely with her daughters, some of whom have suffered from supernatural attacks (and also healings). Similarly, magical elements serve as a statement regarding colonialism, a staple function of magical realism. La Loca, Sofi's youngest daughter, dies at age 3, but then resurrects and flies up to the church roof at her funeral. The priest is unsure if she is demonic or angelic — paradoxical for him, since we could expect him to tell the difference. This scene is significant in many ways, challenging to colonial Catholicism in the Southwest, but also getting at the mixture of the religion that is unique to many Latin Americans, which is a blend of indigenous elements and Catholicism. The novel touches on this in many areas. La Loca challenges Father Jerome at her resurrection and says it is her job to pray for them, not them to pray for her. This is one of many examples when Castillo uses the magical to challenge colonial aspects of religion, social hierarchy, and gender norms. This is a novel about women coming together and improving their community, namely ecologically, and portraying the various ways Chicanas and indigenous women suffer in what is now the American Southwest. I enjoyed reading this book and I do recommend it. Castillo uses a lovely blend of Spanish and English, leaving some things untranslated, which gets at the heart of this hybridity (or multiplicity) that is Mexican-American, among other labels. She writes with humor but does not shy away from the very serious problems that lie in the Southwest.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    - So Far From God follows Sofia and her four daughters in Tome, New Mexico; it is a female driven, charming and tragic tale in the style of magic realism, where extraordinary things happen to ordinary people but no one is exempt from hardships and injustice no matter what clairvoyant powers they may have. So Far From God masquerades itself as a small town folk story but it serves as a microcosm for various injustices of our world including: capitalism, gentrification, industrialism v. environmen - So Far From God follows Sofia and her four daughters in Tome, New Mexico; it is a female driven, charming and tragic tale in the style of magic realism, where extraordinary things happen to ordinary people but no one is exempt from hardships and injustice no matter what clairvoyant powers they may have. So Far From God masquerades itself as a small town folk story but it serves as a microcosm for various injustices of our world including: capitalism, gentrification, industrialism v. environmentalism, and men taking more than they give. I really liked voice of the narrator and how sometimes she would address the reader but never in a way that felt hokey or that drew attention away from the plot; just in a way that reminded you the story was in good hands. (view spoiler)[I found the deaths of the four sisters written in a way that makes them less tragic. Possibly because of Castillo’s Brechtian chapter titles that summarize the upcoming chapter, and her straightforward way of describing the events leading up to the death without much focus on thoughts and feelings. (hide spoiler)] Not to mention how the book is quite fast paced and once an event has passed it is seldom reflected on or further explained. Heaps of the symbolism and mysticism went over my head, and with so many surreal things happening I gave up on trying to extrapolate the greater meaning, plus it’s not my culture so I’m not exactly familiar with the cultural backdrop. All in all, this is a well crafted book with a unique voice and setting; it has the vibes of an epic allegory but with some pressing modern morals and more sympathetic characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Loretta

    With sharp humor that paradoxically reveals painful lived circumstances, So Far From God by Ana Castillo is a necessary text when examining women writing magical realism. The novel is centered around the loves and losses of Sophia and her four daughters --Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca. Castillo pulls from Greek mythology in referencing the Goddess of wisdom (Sophia) and her children, Hope (Esperanza), Faith (Fe), and Charity (Caridad). While Castillo’s Sophia has a fourth daughter, La Loca With sharp humor that paradoxically reveals painful lived circumstances, So Far From God by Ana Castillo is a necessary text when examining women writing magical realism. The novel is centered around the loves and losses of Sophia and her four daughters --Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca. Castillo pulls from Greek mythology in referencing the Goddess of wisdom (Sophia) and her children, Hope (Esperanza), Faith (Fe), and Charity (Caridad). While Castillo’s Sophia has a fourth daughter, La Loca, who represents the spiritual center of the family and the community. In parody of the Greek myths, each daughter undergoes terribly painful and deadly experiences that, at their core, stem from their hope, faith, and charity. Sophia and her daughters live in the small village of Tome, New Mexico on property left to her by her grandfather. Aptly, neither Sophia’s family nor the community seem concerned with the United States as a nationalist entity, even as white encroachment and industrial development fostered by the U.S. impact their lives.  And, even though the novel does not stray far from this family of women, the narrator reminds the reader that this is a community of mestizas rather than a lone family. Castillo does this with the frequent interruptions the unnamed narrator makes to the reader with “as you know…”. The reader is not to forget that the knowledge being imparted is for the community, even if it is a simple bit of gossip. While men do enter into Sophia’s home and the lives of the other women, they are mostly the cause of grief, taking far more than they give. The novel begins with the unexpected death of the three year old La Loca and her miraculous resurrection halfway through her own funeral. The unnamed narrator explains, “Then, as if all this was not amazing enough, as Father Jerome moved toward the child she lifted herself up into the air and landed on the church roof.” Although this event is particularly astounding for the people of the village, they accept the reality of her resurrection and are actually more concerned with her claim that during her brief death, she was led by God first through hell, then through purgatory, and finally to heaven before being returned to Earth to pray for those left behind. Nor do they doubt that she returns with a disturbing sense of smell that causes her to feel ill when she comes into contact with most other humans. Finally, they implicitly believe in her ability to talk to ghosts and to see into the future. More disconcerting to the villagers is the question of where La Loca’s new powers originated from. “‘Is this an act of God or of Satan that brings you back to us, that has flown you up to the roof like a bird? Are you the devil’s messenger or a winged angel?” Father Jerome yells up to La Loca before she floats down from the top of the church. This opening scene informs readers that they are entering a text in which magic is just accepted as a part of this world’s reality. And yet, this text is a critical touchstone for a study of the intersections between women and magical realism not merely because of the magical occurrences weaved throughout the text, but because of the way Castillo uses multiple cultural points of reference to shape a complicated yet synthesized mestizaje world view. For some characters this worldview is more naturalized than for others. For example, Esperanza, the eldest of Sophia’s daughters, seems to struggle with her identity more than her sisters. Castillo writes, “In high school, although a rebel, she was a Catholic heart and soul. In college, she had a romance with Marxism, but was still a Catholic. In graduate school, she was atheist and, in general, a cynic. Lately, she prayed to Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky. For good measure, however, she had been reading a flurry of self-help books.” She is searching for her identity in a litany of cultural and religious structures. But, being a “rebel” does not negate her Catholicism and her self help books do not interfere with her prayers to Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky. Nor does she seem to privilege or be in conflict with one and attempt to subvert it with the other. This mestizaje practice, however, is epitomized when Castillo details Caridad’s experience as an apprentice for the local revered curandera. Doña Felicia is a devout Catholic, but only came to her present faith first through deep suspicion of faith, then through bits and pieces of beliefs from various teachers, until finally she “came full circle.”  As she teaches Caridad the art of healing Felica tells her, “There illnesses could be a result of physical causes or, as said before, the result of someone’s bad intentions. Watch that you never give people reason to envy you.” Although the Catholic faith holds that only God has the power to mete out punishment, there is no conflict in Felicia’s belief system. She still attends Church every morning and does not see her practice as a curandera butting up against her religious devotion. Another time Felicia reminds Caridad, “The egg, as you know, is used to divine many things as well as used for cleansing people of mal espiritus.”   Here, too, the reader is reminded that Tome is a community of mestiza women with the repetition of the phrase “as you know.” Even as Caridad learns from Felicia, these practices are not specialized in a hierarchical system that separates healer from patient and patient from knowledge. Lastly, there is no one way to perform her healing and nor is there one way to practice her Catholicism. As Felicia explains the necessity of blessing the candles used in prayer, she tells Caridad, “If I remember I take them to be blessed by the priest and if I can’t do that, I dip them in holy water, and when I can’t get to the church to have the priest do it, I just say an Our Father over a jar of water.” Again, rather than conflict with her work as a curandera, her Catholic faith and practice are essential aspects of her healing and yet she does not feel compelled to maintain a rigid practice. It is, in fact, her ability to incorporate, change, and adapt that makes her such a revered and effective healer, even as these changeable practices are identified as important to the health of the entire community. And it is this exploration of change and adaptation that makes this novel so important in the canon of magical realism.

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