‘Bless me Ultima’ Review: A Well-loved Novel


Courtesy of Ainsley Samatas

Bridget Curry and Ruby Walker enjoying the book Bless Me Ultima in Language Arts class.

Bless Me, Ultima | Written by Rudolfo Anaya | 225 pages | Lexile level: 840 | Non-fiction

Non-fiction story Bless me, Ultima, is a heartfelt story about six year old Anthony Marez and his process of growing up. The Marez family lives in the eastern plains of New Mexico during the 1940s. The novel begins with Ultima, a healer, staying with them for the summer.

Bless me, Ultima, written by Rudolfo Anaya, is about a young boy and his family who have a visitor, Ultima, who is a healer (a so-called witch), who comes to visit Antonio and his three brothers and two sisters. Ultima teaches him and his family the answers to the deepest and most difficult questions about life, culture, and traditions. She watches over and guides the Marez family as they face many different challenges. Throughout the story, Antonio gains maturity and learns more about himself, his family, and his religion. He comes across obstacles like questioning his faith and going to school, along with the good and bad that lies in his town. Bless me Ultima It is a compelling and riveting story with many twists and turns and an underlying uplifting message.
Rudolfo Anaya’s wife, Patricia Lawless, was the one who inspired Anaya to write this novel. The novel explores the difficulty of synthesizing conflicting cultural traditions. Anaya suggests in the book that a person can grab from several cultural traditions to create a more adaptable identity for themselves. Antonio’s character displays adaptability throughout the book while figuring out his future and his role as a Christian.
Anaya was born in a small town in New Mexico and lived there his whole life, which inspired him to write the book set there. Bless me, Ultima is a book for all ages above 12 and can be enjoyed by many. The book was written over a seven year span. The East Coast Publishing Houses had previously rejected the novel repeatedly when, eventually, in 1972, a group of Chicano publishers accepted his book. It went on to win the prestigious Premio Quinto Sol award and is also now considered a classic Chicano work.
The characters in Bless me, Ultima make the novel lively and illuminates the readers to see different points of view within one family. Antonio’s mother, Maria, is very religious and her solution to any dilemma is prayer. She has always wanted Antonio to be a priest, although his father disagrees. Gabriel, Antonio’s father, wants him to become a vaquero, which is another word for cowboy. This causes Antonio to be unsure about his future- hoping he will soon find his calling. There are so many different opinions throughout the book about religion, and the family’s lifestyle. Overall, this appeals to readers because there is conflict and many different perspectives.
The plot of the book is very engaging for readers with unforeseen events for many characters. The novel itself has a slow start that steadily eases into the plot and characters. This actually helped the novel show the coming-of-age aspect of the novel as well as Antonio growing up and gaining more knowledge.
Antonio experiences and sees more than anyone should in a lifetime. The book brings mystery within the plot and characters, luring the readers. Tenorio, a man living in Antonio’s town, brings trouble for the whole family, including Ultima and others.
All in all, Bless me, Ultima is a rousing and compelling story. It has heart, mystery, and antagonism. Characters gain and lose their faith throughout the story, and Antonio gets an education and meets people he won’t forget. Most of all, Ultima taught their family about faith, forgiveness, and gave them worthy advice which will last. It’s a well-loved novel and worth the read.