Rebecca M. reviewed Bless Me, Ultima (Special Illustrated Edition) on
Helpful Score: 3
This is a wonderful story about a boy growing up in the American south west around the time of WWII. His rural family takes in an older woman (Ultima), who is a traditional herbal healer, when he is 6. He explores his traditions, of his father, of his mother, of Ultima, and the Catholic Church, all while trying to find his own voice. Enjoy this captivating story!
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. \'We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,\' says Antonio\'s mother. \'It is not the way of our people,\' agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio\'s family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan pasta mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.
Ashley M. reviewed Bless Me, Ultima (Special Illustrated Edition) on
This was a really good book in my opinion. Anaya writes with rich descriptions and paints the beautiful images of little Antonio's life in an equally touching and haunting style. Great for high schoolers and for those who haven't yet lost the magic of their childhoods.
Great insight on the New Mexico/Mexican culture. I read this story for an Academic Decathlon. Loved the mix between a little bit of Spanish and English. Autobiographical story of the author. Although names are changed it's a great adventurous read about Anaya's lifestory.
Jennifer S. reviewed Bless Me, Ultima (Special Illustrated Edition) on
This is a moving and powerful coming-of-age novel. I read it because of the publicity surrounding "The Big Read" this fall, and I was very glad that I did. Rudolfo Anaya depicts a young boy's struggles with the perilous and difficult charge of becoming a man with a blend of poetry, mysticism, violence and sensitivity. The title character, a respected curandera (or, as some would have it, bruja, or witch), is an archetype of wisdom, as much a part of the bleak, mysterious landscape of New Mexico as is her owl familiar. The religious/mystical elements of the book were my favorite part. The protagonist, Tony, is challenged by the obviously beneficial power of Ultima's indigenous beliefs (reinforced by a new-made myth of the Golden Carp); his devoutly Catholic mother hopes he will become a priest, but even as he reveres the loving Virgen de Quadelupe and fears the power of the Church, Tony worries about the apparent weakness of the priests in the face of evil. Woven among Tony's personal decisions and challenges are narrative threads about the decline of the vaquero (cowboy) lifestyle, the trauma of WWII, the tragedies of migrant farm workers, and the temptations of puberty. Some scenes, such as the raucous Christmas pageant, are infused with the rough hilarity of young boys; Anaya follows this comic passage, however, with a story of deeply affecting tragedy.
Altogether, this is a complex and affecting novel.
This is a delightful story written by a Mexican-American who is widely read, Rudolpho Anaya. The book won the Premio Quinto Sol, national Chicano literary award. It is the story of six-year-old Antonio Marez who bonds with Ultima, a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under the guidance of this wise woman, Antonio examines family ties that bind him and tear him apart and discovers himself in the magical past.
Antonio is strongly influenced by the church, a curandera named Ultima, witches, and ghosts. It's fascinating to see how these concepts affect Antonio, his family, community and friends. While my college Spanish is rusty, I have plowed through the book and delighted in the childish dreams and fantasies expressed by Antonio. At times I think that Antonio uses vocabulary that is beyond his years but that does not detract from the story. The book is a good in depth look at life in a Spanish family in the 1940s. While this is quite different from much of the historical fiction I have read I found it a fine read!
A Southwest coming of age story of young Antonio. His aunt, Ultima, is a cuarandera (healer), who helps bring him to maturity and find his way among his ancestors' mythology, the Latino Catholocism, and the secular world around him. Anaya is is an award winning, poetic writer with a strong sense of story.
My daughter had to read this book for school so I read it as well. Interesting coming of age novel about a young Hispanic boy in the 1940s growing up on the edge of the New Mexico llano (plains). The story involves his struggle with religious belief - he is a Catholic and on the verge of his first communion. His mother wants him to be a Priest. But, he has doubts - Ultima, an older woman who has been taken in by the family, is a pagan healer who many consider to be a "bruja" or witch. He also learns of the legend of the "golden carp", an Aztec tradition, and thinks this may be the way. Along the way he witnesses the deaths of 3 people and is torn by these deaths and how God could allow them. Overall, I would recommend reading this one.
Bildungsroman is an unappealing sounding, ponderously German way to call a coming-of-age novel... a coming-of-age novel, wherein the primary focus of the story is the protagonist's growth from child to adult, a change that is usually awkward and painful and difficult as growing up often is.
This remains one of my favorite coming-of-age stories because of the juxtaposition of worlds. Antonio himself is the junction of all that has come before him.
His father's people are vaqueros, cowboys. His mother's people are sedentary farmers, not wanderers of the empty plain. His mother is quite piously Roman Catholic (and wishes for her fourth son to become a man of learning and a priest). His father is rather piously pragmatic. They live in a "hick town," as his brothers (back from WWII) observe--a southern California settlement at odds with and largely unknown to the broader world.
Into this comes Ultima, an elderly curandera (part shaman, part mystic healer) who comes to live with the family. Through her intervention and the conflict with the family of brujos (witches and evil-doers), Antonio becomes aware of the "pagan" world, for want of a better word. He experiences mystical dreams, meets a pagan god who has gone fishin', and aids Ultima in lifting a curse. We would call this story magical realism, but the chicano culture from which the story springs has been grounded in this sort of natural mysticism. He also sees deaths (more than a child of 7-8 might be expected to), witnesses evil, and watches the lines blur between good and evil and those that use whatever powers or skills are available to them.
It is a powerful, compact little tale that asks the hard questions, and as Antonio finds out, answers aren't so easy to come by.