A thick strand in the tapestry of themes of Saint Sullivan's Daughter is the importance of fatherhood, not only to the daughter but to the father as well. When a man becomes a father, then the arc of his personal development can't exclude his children. If he rejects parental responsibility, he is but a stunted version of what destiny would have him be.
The curandera, speaking to Barry Sullivan, makes it clear that until he fully claims his parental responsibility, he will never fulfill himself as an artist. In the early 1960's (the time in which this story is set) fathers were more of a necessary accessory than a vital actor in childrearing. While writing Saint Sullivan's Daughter, my quest was to uncover what would occur in a dysfunctional family if the father were to fully accept his role as the protector and nurturer of an at-risk child?
Without dropping spoilers, I can reveal that the wise elders of the Irish and Mexican families counsel Barry Sullivan regarding how he might grow as a parent. Though this is a story of the Mid-century Modern era, I believe the themes still resonate in our Post Modern era. Parents still struggle to make sacrifices for the sake of their children's well-being, and when the extended family and older friends cooperate to help young parents, they help heal the wounds of dysfunction.
A wise neighbor, a committed grandparent, a counselor or loyal friend can do wonders to heal a situation when the "luck of the draw" (as Kevin Renner calls it) deals a child an unprepared and floundering parent. Even the best of us are clueless at times. Parenting is a task that shouldn't be attempted in a vacuum.
Consider giving Saint Sullivan's Daughter as a gift to a new or young father. Young fathers can relate to Barry Sullivan's struggle to balance his creative and parenting life, especially when facing single-parenting.