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Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima (original 1972; edition 1999)

by Rudolfo Anaya

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2,114963,108 (3.67)62
Title:Bless Me, Ultima
Authors:Rudolfo Anaya
Info:Grand Central Publishing (1999), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)


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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Like I said before, our community is reading this book for the NEA Big Read. When I was told we were reading it, I was unsure about it. It isn't something I would normally read at all given the story line and the underlying themes. Because I work in the library and we are the main sponsors I decided I needed to read it in case someone came in and asked about it. Well, I read it. It wasn't the worst book I've ever read but it is definitely not good. This review is based purely on my reading experience. It in no way reflects the opinions of anyone else. If you read it and enjoy it, great! Sadly, I thought it was pretty bad.

First off, the writing itself isn't very good. It is very basic with a lot of unnecessary descriptions. It's like the author wanted it to be written on a very high reading level, but lacking the ability to make it so just used a lot of wordy, unnecessary filler to take up lots of pages. There are only so many ways you can describe a dusty plain and let me tell you - you will see every possible way to describe it in this book. I found a lot of repetitious sayings too. Antonio's mother said 5 sayings a least 100 times in this book and said little else.

Secondly, there was really no plot. Yes it's the story of Antonio and when Ultima came to live with him. Other than that, little else really fed into the plot line. It was like a bunch of really random things happened and then it ended... and ended with no closure. It was literally a bunch of happenings, with a bunch of repetitive filler in between to close the gaps. When it ended I closed the book and was said to myself "seriously? that's the end?" Such a disappointment.

Third, the characters are forgettable and not well developed. Even Antonio, the main character, is simplistic, boring and forgettable. You got ever little development after the introduction of the characters. I think many were added simply as filler yet again. Any of the shenanigans involving the kids at Tony's school we once again (to me) just filler. There were about 7 kids he ran around with and I still cannot recall all their names because they simply we're important enough and made no impact on me.

Fourth, and some may hate this complaint the most, I didn't connect with the religious/theological aspect of the book. It was just a mixture of ill constructed attempts to bring some kind of enlightenment about the spiritual side of things and it just landed on deaf ears. It would have been nice to see some kind of structure with the religious aspects of the book. Instead, you just got page after page of spiritual mumbo-jumbo mixed in with other religious aspects. I know that what was trying to be conveyed was 'a boy's attempt to make sense of the different spiritual and religious aspects he faces growing up'. I got that. I just wish that it would have been dealt with differently.

Overall, not a good book for me. Very boring. Actually INCREDIBLY BORING. Long-winded and lacking a substantial plot. If it hadn't of been for the puked up hairball in like chapter 7 it would have gotten 1 star. But hey, who cannot be entertained by a puked up hairball attempting to wriggle across the floor? You're lying if you say you're not :) ( )
  MermaidxLibrarian | Jul 16, 2015 |
RGG: A mystical story of 1940's chicano New Mexico; young boy as protagonist; heavy emphasis on Catholicism and questioning of belief.
  rgruberhighschool | Apr 5, 2015 |
Great book very cultural and you can really relate to it. Especially growing up in New Mexico. Many interesting characters. Sad ( )
  Chavila | Mar 12, 2015 |
Rudolfo Anaya is now recognized as one of the founders of Chicano Literature. Bless Me, Ultima took me right back to many of the things I miss about New Mexico.

Tony is six when La Grande Ultima, a curandera too old to live on her own anymore, comes to live with the Marez-Luna family. She recognizes something special in him and takes him with her when she goes to help others in the village, and on herb gathering trips. Tony soon realizes there is more than meets the eye in most situations and learns to observe what happens around him.

The big themes are mysticism vs. religion, machismo vs. courage, vendettas which take on a life of their own, and family. It seems too much for a little boy to take in, and in many ways, it is. But I never faltered in the belief that Tony would survive, and thrive, through the chaos which made for difficult situations over the course of a year.

Three brothers come home from WWII, and leave again. Tony begins training with Ultima shortly before he begins catechism training after school in the village Catholic church which causes him to question God as he mulls over the other gods he experiences. I truly love this book. ( )
  AuntieClio | Mar 6, 2015 |
Antonio is growing up during the 1940's in New Mexico. He is surrounded by family that is humble and hardworking. His most notable family member is that of the family matriarch, Ultima. She is a very respected woman and also curandera. She and Antonio share bonding moments in the book discussing old ways and complimentary styles of healing with surrounding herbs and weeds of the land. Many literary components and religious citations throughout the book. Culture, heritage, religion, family, power struggles, life and death, medicine and coming of age components to discuss with class.
Interesting that it would be good for a read aloud in a middle class but would be good to try in 5th.
NO illustrations but would love to see a picture. book. ( )
  Adrian.Gaytan | Feb 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rudolfo Anayaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ramirez, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Con Honor Para Mis Padres
First words
Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven.
And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Bless Me, Ultima is about a young boy named Antonio who lives in Guadalupe with his family and an old curandera, Ultima. Antonio was born into a Catholic family. As Antonio grows every day, he learns the ways of good and evil, confussion with religion, the differnce between the Marez side of the family and the Lunas side, and the ways of the river and the earth. Antonio strugles with many friends dieing because of an evil man named Tenorio. Tenorio owns three daughters who are witches. The man seeks revenge for the death of two of his daughters torwards Ultima and Antonio. He calls Ultima the brueja, or witch. This leads to Antonio's confussion with God. "Why hasn't God prevented my friends from dieing? Why did Tenorio det away with killing them? Why are you letting evil get away with out being punished? I have so many questions to ask You, but none are getting answers. Is God still alive, did he even exist?" Antonio wonders.
Cico, one of Antonios friends took him to see the golden carp pass in the river. Cico does not believe in God, but the golden carp as his god. He thinks our God is a jealous god because he does not want us to believe in any other God. Antonio wondered if the golden carp was a god of beauty.
His fathers side, Marez, is all about adventure, the wind, and the llano. The mothers side, Lunas is all about religion, the earth and staying put in one place. Antonio's mom wants him to becone a farmer or a priest, a man of learning. She brings this on Antonio alot. There always seems to be competition between the mom and dad because they are totally two different people. Antonio has a hard time deciding who he wants to be, a Marez or Luna. He finally realizes that he can be both though and learns his destiny that way. As he gets to now Ultima better he learns more of how his future will be.
Antonio goes on a journey with Ultima to help cure his uncle from the curse that one of Tenorio's daughter layed upon him. Antonio had a connection with his uncle and felt everything he felt. He learned the power that Ultima has from the curing of her herbs she uses for medicine. At the end of the story he figures out the connection with Ultima and her owl. The owl is her soul/spirit.
I would recommend this book it makes you think alot and is in depth with many things. The book has many events through each chapter that makes one want to keep reading to find out what happens next!


Rudolfo A. Anaya is the winner of the $1,000 Second Annual PREMIO QUINTO SOL national Chicano literary award. Mr. Anaya was born in New Mexico. He attended public schools in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and was graduated from the University of New Mexico . .

writing his novel, Mr. Anaya has said: "I have been writing for the past ten years. I have written volumes of poems, stories, novels, burned some, saved a few. Out of a suitcase full I have, it seemed that ULTIMA distilled into something worthwhile. Writing is not easy . It is a lonely, and oftentimes unappreciated endeavor. But I had to keep creating, I had to keep trying to organize all the beautiful, chaotic things into some pattern. Writing is never quite learned. I have to rewrite and rewrite each manuscript before I'm satisfied. By the way, my writing is completely self-taught. I have never taken a writing course. It's easy . You just have to sit down and write, write, write, and write . . . hasta que te lleva la madre, y las almorranas."

The illustrations for BLESS ME, ULTIMA are by Dennis Martinez, also a native New Mexican, now residing in Los Angeles, California. He teaches art in the Los Angeles Public Schools.

Cover design : Octavia I. Romano-V.
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Six-year-old Antonio embarks upon a spiritual journey under the watchful guidance of Ultima, a healing woman, that leads him to question his faith and beliefs in family, religion, and other aspects of his Chicano culture.

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