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The Infinite Plan
by Isabel Allende

Category: Fiction / General
382 pages; ISBN: 0-06-017016-6

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


Gregory Reeves is the child of dysfunctional parents who struggles through life unaware of the consequent damage done to him and his sister. His father in an itinerant preacher, his message: The Infinite Plan. The family is always on the move searching for disciples. The father becomes ill and their poverty requires that they settle in a barrio in Los Angeles. His father’s death when Gregory is a teenager is a terrible loss to the boy. He has to make his way as a white boy in a latino culture. He and his mother and sister are befriended by the Morales family, whose daugher, Carmen, becomes Gregory’s life long friend.

Traveling with the Reeves family is Olga, a friend of Gregory’s mother, Nora. She attaches herself to the Reeves family and takes the role of midwife, healer, fortune teller to the local community. “Hers was not an occult science but an art of fantasy composed principally of intuitiun and shrewdness.” (p17) She is an important figure in Gregory’s life.

In High School Greg is brutalized by a bully named Martinez. He tries to avoid him but ultimately finds himself in a spot where he must face his enemy. He challenges him to a train race with a remarkable outcome. After High School Gregory has an accident at work and is laid up. After he recovers he takes a series of low-paying jobs. He meets and is befriended by Cyrus, an older man who introduces him to life on a more intellectual level. When Cyrus dies, he leaves his savings of $800. to Greg for college tuition. Greg enrolls at Berkley and meets Timothy Duane, a wealthy young man, and they become life-long friends.

Gregory falls in love with Samantha, an aloof and distracted girl with few interests. They have a child, Margaret, who is treated cooly by her mother. Margaret eventually becomes unmanagable. The marriage is shattered by Samantha’s unfaithfulness. Gregory joins the army and goes to Vietnam where he is introduced to the horrors of war. “I carry amphetamines by the fistful, all mixed together, a kick in the stomach, a bitter taste in the mouth; I talk so fast I don’t know what I am saying, after a minute or two I can’t talk at all, I chew gum to keep from biting my tongue, they I stupefy myself with alcohol and sleeping pills in order to get a little rest.” (p185)

Much later, Greg falls madly in love with Shannon, a shallow and self-centered person. They have a son, David, but their marriage is not happy. Eventually she leaves and abandons David to Gregory’s care. Gregory is overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for an unruly boy. His friend Carmen finds Daisy, a 200 pound lady from the Dominican Republic who is perfect for the household. Gregory’s friend from college, Timothy Duane, suggests that Gregory and his son, David, seek help from his friend Ming Obrien who is a pyschiatrist. Both David and Gregory profit from their visits with Ming and Gregory finally comes to grips with all the damage done to him from his dysfunctional family of origin. This richly detailed story with vivid characterizations will keep the reader engrossed to the last page.


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