This is the story of a Chicano family in the little town of Tome, New Mexico: Sofi, her (sometime) husband Domingo, and their four daughters--Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and the youngest, who is epileptic, "La Loca Santa." So Far From God includes a full cast of characters including the healer, Doña Felicia, Francisco el Penitente (El Franky), a psychic surgeon, and an assortment of others.

The novel tells the story of relatively short lives and (longer) deaths of the four daughters. Esperanza, a journalist, dies as a hostage in the Middle East; Fe dies of cancer as a result of chemical poisoning from her job in the weapons industry; Caridad is miraculously restored after a mysterious mauling, and later dies--or disappears--off a cliff with the woman of her dreams; La Loca, the remaining daughter, dies of what appears to be HIV infection. Sofi, having pronounced herself mayor of Tome, in her grief over Loca's death, goes on to found the worldwide organization, M.O.M.A.S. (Mothers of Martyrs and Saints).


On the book's cover, Sandra Cisneros aptly describes So Far From God as "a novel roaring down Interstate 25 at one hundred and fifteen miles an hour with an almanac of Chicanoismo--saints, martyrs, T.V. mystics, home remedies, little miracles, dichos, myths, gossip, recipes--fluttering from the fender like a flag." The novel's humor, however, does not distract from the seriousness of the issues Castillo treats, among them, the social roots of illness (war, worker exploitation and violation of health and safety standards, gross materialism, global violence, etc.).

In addition, the novel raises interesting interpretive questions: how is it that Caridad's mangled body is restored so perfectly when the doctors had given up hope?; does La Loca really come back from the dead (and fly to the roof of the church) or was she "just" in an epileptic swoon?; how does La Loca contract HIV when she abhors human touch?; how does the psychic surgeon do what he does?; and so on. Within the novel, characters offer different interpretations of the same event, allowing readers to struggle with such issues as meaning-making and shared understanding, topics especially useful to medical students.


Ana Castillo is Mexican-American (Chicana).


Penguin: Plume

Place Published

New York



Page Count