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The Hummingbird's Daughter Paperback – April 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "Her powers were growing now, like her body. No one knew where the strange things came from. Some said they sprang up in her after the desert sojourn with Huila. Some said they came from somewhere else, some deep inner landscape no one could touch. That they had been there all along." Teresita, the real-life "Saint of Cabora," was born in 1873 to a 14-year-old Indian girl impregnated by a prosperous rancher near the Mexico-Arizona border. Raised in dire poverty by an abusive aunt, the little girl still learned music and horsemanship and even to read: she was a "chosen child," showing such remarkable healing powers that the ranch's medicine woman took her as an apprentice, and the rancher, Don Tomás Urrea, took her—barefoot and dirty—into his own household. At 16, Teresita was raped, lapsed into a coma and apparently died. At her wake, though, she sat up in her coffin and declared that it was not for her. Pilgrims came to her by the thousands, even as the Catholic Church denounced her as a heretic; she was also accused of fomenting an Indian uprising against Mexico and, at 19, sentenced to be shot. From this already tumultuous tale of his great-aunt Teresa, American Book Award–winner Urrea (The Devil's Highway) fashions an astonishing novel set against the guerrilla violence of post–Civil War southwestern border disputes and incipient revolution. His brilliant prose is saturated with the cadences and insights of Latin-American magical realism and tempered by his exacting reporter's eye and extensive historical investigation. The book is wildly romantic, sweeping in its effect, employing the techniques of Catholic hagiography, Western fairy tale, Indian legend and everyday family folklore against the gritty historical realities of war, poverty, prejudice, lawlessness, torture and genocide. Urrea effortlessly links Teresita's supernatural calling to the turmoil of the times, concealing substantial intellectual content behind effervescent storytelling and considerable humor.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Twenty years in the making, Urrea's epic novel recounts the true story of his great-aunt Teresita. In 1873, amid the political turbulence of General Porfirio Díaz's Mexican republic, Teresita is born to a fourteen-year-old Indian girl, "mounted and forgotten" by her white master. Don Tomàs Urrea later takes his illegitimate daughter into his home, where she learns to bathe every week and read "Las Hermanas Brontë." But Teresita also continues a folk education as a curandera, discovering healing powers and a mystical relationship with God. Indian pilgrims swarm to the Urrea ranch, where "St. Teresita," a mestiza Joan of Arc, kindles in them a powerful faith in God and a perilous hunger for revolution. The novel brings to life not only the deeply pious figure whom Díaz himself dubbed "the Most Dangerous Girl in Mexico" but also the blood-soaked landscape of pre-revolutionary Mexico.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author based this work of fiction on real events in the life of an eponymous blood relation, circa 1880 (when the story also takes pace). He spent 20 years in the research and writing, which is evident in the stirring, complex, yet easily digestible, mouth-watering narration of this novel.
Teresa is the illegitimate daughter of wealthy (and married) south-of-the-border rancher Don Tomas and a fourteen year-old peasant Indian woman who fled Sinaloa for greener pastures. Raised initially by her mean-spirited aunt, her adventurous spirit eventually delivers her to the house of her father at a tender, young age. The protective, flinty Huila, a medicine woman who works for Don Tomas, apprehends Teresa's destiny and mentors her in the art and botanical science of healing. Huila is also aware that Teresa has a native and inherited shamanic talent way beyond midwifery and organic medicine.
Filled with a sprawling and vivid cast of characters--vaqueros, caballeros, Indians, pilgrims,politicians, the wealthy as well as the indigent, apostates as well as the devout, this is a colorful, astutely comical allegory that is ripe with thought, action, and spirit. It is a story of familial love and redemption and the vastness of the soul. It is a tale of adventure that you won't want to end. (Rumor has it that a sequel and a film is in the works.)
Luis Alberto Urrea is an exuberant storyteller oozing an alchemical mixture of warmth, humor, satire, and vigorous vitality. His style is a reminiscent witch's brew of the best of outlaw and magical realism--The Milagro Beanfield War; Lonesome Dove; a dose of Garcia-Marquez; a glittering sprinkle of Isabelle Allende. But it is its own mystical and magical epic story of community and faith, of an unforgettable daughter and the people who loved her.
It takes you from the days before her birth, a fatherless child, in a hut with a dirt floor through her childhood, her life and so much more. This is a work of history, of spirituality and religion, of war, love hate and betrayal. It is a story of God, and healing and deep humanity.
Teresita, as she was called was eased from her mother's womb by Huila, a midwife and healer. At the moment of her birth, she was recognized as a gifted child. One who would be a healer in her own right, in the years to come.
Abandoned by her mother, she lived a life of poverty and abuse with her mothers sister and that sister's own children. It was only after an episode of extreme abuse that Huila took the child under her own protection, and saw to it that her life would be eased. Huila not only looked into her eyes and saw a gifted girlchild, but knew who her father had been.
Circumstances forced her to leave the only home she had ever know, and follow Don Tomas' Urrea to a new home, and a new life. Her aunt chose another path, which freed her to live with Huila, whom she learned to love and respect. Huila was free to become the teacher the child Teresita was waiting for.
The words to describe the terrible beauty of this book fail me. It is a book filled with love, with hate, with food and music, with worship and heresy ( but not where you expect it to be). It is a tale of opportunities, war , betrayal and martyrdom, joy and earthiness. This is a book that should sit on a shelf in every readers home. It is one to read again and again. IT is a book with no need for a sequel, as to read it again is to read more, learn more and see more.
The other main character is her father, Tomas Urrea, a privileged, philandering hacendado who is himself turned into a kind of saint by his illegitimate daugther. The relationship they develop is intensely moving. A host of other characters, including the shaman Huila, the ranch boss Segundo, the intellectual engineer Aguirre, the half-brother Buenaventura, and the Federale with a heart Enriquez, shine through vividly.
All of Mexico is here, in its glory, horror and unique quirkiness. The only book I can compare it with is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, but this one is better because it stays closer to the earth, lacking McCarthy's often florid flights of fancy. The Hummingbird's Daughter gives the phrase "Read it and weep" new meaning. I often wept openly as I read it, and the final 40 pages created one of the most intensely emotional experiences of my life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not for the faint of heart, or for the intellectually soft.