Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya
Coming-of-Age, Magical Realism, Philosophical Literature
At the heart of Bless Me, Ultima sits a story about a boy growing up. It's all about Antonio undergoing rites of passage, learning what it is to be a man, and trying to suss out what it is that he believes. Sure, the growing-up story has been told about a million times by a million people, but this one is special because Antonio isn't your average kid.
He starts as a little boy terrified to have to be starting school soon, unable to understand the English, and torn between the futures that others seem to have laid out for him. By the end of it, he's witnessed violent deaths, battled curses, faced down a killer, learned to embrace multiple facets of his culture and heritage, and come to understand that he's not bound to a future that someone else has chosen for him. In short, the kid has come of age. It's as simple as that.
It's fairly safe to say that if you were on your way to class and you witnessed an old-school throw down between a woman who may or may not be a witch and a demon that possessed some guy's soul, you'd either freak out or think that they were filming the latest sequel to Paranormal Activity in your neighborhood. For the characters of Bless Me, Ultima, these things kind of happen a lot. The supernatural and magic are simply a part of life in this novel, which makes it fall in line with a lot of the conventions of Magical Realism.
And while Antonio stays busy coming of age and dealing with the magic around him, he also engages in a pretty heavy philosophical debate with himself and some of his friends. Throughout the novel, Antonio struggles to discover the nature and existence of God. On the list of philosophical subjects, this one ranks pretty high. The philosophical nature of Antonio leads him on his journey and guides him as he grows into a man.