Angie Cruz’s Soledad is a marvelous story of family and integrity, myth and mysticism, racial identity, culture and chaos and various other themes. The background of the author has deeply influenced the setting of the novel as the story is deeply influenced by her Dominican heritage. Author herself has testified that her cultural upbringing highly impacted the novel. Even though she authored it with keeping ‘community’ in her mind, the novel also turned out to be a story of family, relationships, girlhood, motherhood and extended to several other premises.
The main voice in the story is that of an art student Soledad who wants to fly to her sick mother to take care of her. She is about to leave her neighborhood behind as only she can help her mother to recover from the emotional coma. Soledad also has her aunt Gorda, her wild cousin Flaca to tame in her family. As she comes back to her house, she is confronted with a big challenge to negotiate or forget the painful or chaotic past for rebuilding her fellowship with her mother. ‘Family’ and relationships become the centre theme of the story.
Soledad had left her contentious family at the age of eighteen as she got fed up with petty fights, struggles and endless tragedies. She joined as an art student at Cooper Union and also had a gallery job (along with a hip East Village walk-up). Soledad was imminently cool, fine, peaceful being infinitely far from her belligerent, superstitious neighborhood where she had her upbringing. Soledad however could not continue for a long time as she got call from Tia Gorda saying that her mother badly needs her as she had slipped into an emotional coma. Soledad’s return was the only solution to save her mother.
The love that remained for her family made Soledad to return home though she was haunted with the terrible recollections about leering men, open hydrants, and dreadful slick-skinned teen girls with bawdy mouths and snapping gum. Soledad had much to face in her home at West 164th Street. She had to adjust with the raucous behavior of her cousin Flaca and had to keep her from falling for Richie, the neighbor. Soledad struggles and she falls into a big challenge. She was also disturbed by the memories and ghosts of her mother’s past and also had to mend their relationship so that she may recover.
She had to fight the memories of all painful past experiences to help her love her mother. The story is all about the family burden suffered by young Soledad. Soledad always had strained relationship with the family members, especially her widowed mother Olivia. Much of the novel is about the family of Olivia, her female relatives. Soledad had her aunt Gorda who can better be called a witch. She opt ceremonies and home remedies for treating her sister. Soledad had much to suffer from the fiery adolescent Flaca her cousin. More than all this was the nightmares, terrifying flashbacks and fearful memories.
Soledad struggles being ‘caught between two worlds’ for the sake of her family. The bad images of her mother’s Dominican youth, Soledad returns to her family. Soledad’s responsibility for her family and love for her mother constraints her to forgive or forget Olivia’s past as a prostitute, her spurious paternity, and the death of her father in the hand of Olivia. She says “And when I surrender to the warmth of the water, I feel the past, present, and future becomes one. My mother becomes the ocean and the sky, wrapping herself around me”. The family warmth engulfs Soledad as she gets into a spiritual epiphany.
Soledad is found to be compelled by guilt and responsibility and a forced loyalty and start to take care of the family that she once left. This forced loyalty or the love remnants make Soledad come back to the place that she longed to leave and meet her family that she wanted to forget. Soledad took herself away from her collapsed family as she wanted to have a different future than everybody else. She separated from everything, explored new paths and found herself successful in her new world. However the little love residue that remained in her heart made her sacrifice everything for the sake of her family (or her sick mother).
She was back to her old neighborhood and finds something that longed for and that she did not expect. She finally recognizes that everything she was yearning for was there in front of her. We can say that the novel Soledad is all about family relationships. The news of her mother’s sickness melted the heart of young Soledad and made her take the crucial decision to leave her happy world and come to her family from which she was fleeing away. Even though Soledad was reluctantly returning to her family, her time with her family becomes too crucial in the novel that it occupies majority of the pages.
Soledad’s plight was painful but her family members turned out to be characters that made the whole story interesting, rather than Soledad. The background of the novel is in the family or cultural background of the author Angie Cruz. Author’s childhood experience in the ethnic barrio of New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood highly influenced the story. The story more or less appears as an autobiography where the family of Soledad represents the entire women folk of the superstitious neighborhood.
The bizarre mother, jealous cousin Flaca, her crazy Aunt Gorda, the entire family of Angie Cruz speaks of the predicament of the entire neighborhood. Even though the whole story intended to report the helpless womanhood of the undeveloped neighborhood, the novel turned out to be a tale of family relationships that sprang up from an extremely collapsed background. The family of Soledad, her mother, cousin and her aunt filled the novel making it a tale family story. References Angie (2001) Cruz Soledad, Simon & Schuster Trent Masiki (2001) Soledad – Review – Black Issues Book Review, Matthews & Associates.