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Queen of America: A Novel Hardcover – November 28, 2011
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Praise for QUEEN OF AMERICA:
"'Who is more of an outlaw than a saint?'" one of Luis Urrea's characters poses. The answer is this ferocious, ribald romance of the border. Jaunty, bawdy, gritty, sweet, Queen of America has a bottomless comic energy and a heart large enough to accept-even revel in-all of human folly."―Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily Alone and Songs for the Missing
"A magnificent work of literary alchemy, so masterfully infused with myth and history, you will feel these characters in your heart, your gut. You will grieve for their immortal souls."―Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
"Enchanting...Fantastical...Urrea has stitched a seamless end to the saga."―Mythili G. Rao, New York Times
"Lively and beautifully composed...Urrea's novelist descendant conducts the new book in as striking a manner, deploying the passion of a visionary, making music with his phrases, evoking a world in the ebullient manner of antique storytellers while employing effective modern narrative techniques. This sequel is a world in itself, with the spiritually gifted Teresita...The novelist's powers work their way in this entertaining and intelligent historical fiction, studded with delights, rich in image and metaphor, the voice strong and at the same time comforting as it creates a universe replete with a multiplicity of characters, complete in body and soul. And as in the best of fiction, though the novelist himself is not physically present, his voice speaks worlds."―Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"Urrea has given us that rare breed of literary sequel, a story that will satisfy fans of the original while standing solidly on its own...The Hummingbird's Daughter [is] the magical, engrossing and too-crazy-to-be-anything-but-completely-true story of his great-aunt...[and is] a tough act to follow...but Queen of America is filled with wondrous, wide-eyed descriptions of life in the United States in the beginning of the 20th century...At once magical and corporeal, grounding and transporting."―Michael David Lukas, San Francisco Chronicle
"Queen of America magically spins a vibrant, larger-than-life fiction based on the "Saint of Cabora."―Vanity Fair
"Urrea delights in the texture of things. Turn-of-the-century America, particularly New York, comes alive at his fingertips: He sees both the silk and the mud... In imagining the story of his great-aunt Teresita, Urrea might have chosen to make her a hero; that would have been easier. What we get is more complicated, more modern... Hers is the story of what it means to have a gift, and how a talent can also be a burden."―Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
"Colorful [and] exuberant."―Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"I am happy to report, a bit wet-eyed, that this new work holds its own, cleverly written so that a reader could take up the saga here...Urrea's touch with secondary characters is Dickensian; his long years of research into remote time and place inspires our surrender. Best of all, perhaps, is the sensual, musical prose set to English. Urrea dances along the fertile crescent between Spanish and English...Queen of America reads like a thrill, and in its conclusion feels like a blessing...The magic made here is all Luis Alberto Urrea's own―Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Captivating...With deft humor and a poetic lyricism that seamlessly folds one scene into another, Urrea unfolds the story of his real-life great-aunt Teresita, a teenage saint who was known for healing miracles... Each scene in Queen of America unfurls gracefully like delicate wisps of smoke. Whether Teresita is being held captive in Northern California by a band of profiteering medical professionals, or being feted like a queen in New York's social circles, this epic novel paints a portrait of America-and its inhabitants-with grace and style. It will spark fire in readers' hearts."―Megan Fishmann, Bookpage
"A gritty, bold, and much-anticipated sequel to The Hummingbird's Daughter... Fiercely romantic and at times heartbreaking but also full of humor, Urrea's latest novel blends fairy tale, Western adventure, folk tale, and historical drama. Fans of Hummingbird and readers new to Urrea's work will surely enjoy this magnificent, epic novel."―Library Journal
About the Author
Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of, among other books, The Devil's Highway, The Hummingbird's Daughter, and Into the Beautiful North. Winner of a Lannan Literary Award and Christopher Award, he is also the recipient of an American Book Award, the Kiriyama Prize, the National Hispanic Cultural Center's Literary Award, a Western States Book Award, a Colorado Book Award, an Edgar Award and a citation of excellence from the American Library Association. He is a member of the Latino Literary Hall of Fame.
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Top Customer Reviews
I wanted to find out what happened to Teresita and her father Tomas once they left Mexico. I wanted to learn if they ever meet up with Gabriel and some of the other characters again (from the first book). I wanted to know if she would end up finding a man to marry - did she have children? What became of all her followers and her gift of healing? This book is answering those things for me, plus more. All sorts of interesting things happen to them in America. It's very entertaining to me. And just so well written.
I'm using "Immersion Reading" with this on my Kindle. That means I can read it with my eyes and listen to Mr. Urrea reading it aloud at the same time. This is fantastic because he pronounces all those Spanish words and phrases that I cannot. He makes it seem more real because he's reading his own work. He knows all about these people. Who better to read this than the author? Nobody.
I may update this review once I finish the book - I'm 2/3'rds of the way done. We'll see how it ends. Ending are always so important.
It starts where the first book left off, and can be read as a stand-alone, according to the marketing and product description. However, I stoutly recommend that readers read The Hummingbird's Daughter first. The two stories are part of a heroic saga; you shouldn't cut off the head to apprehend the tale. You cannot capture the incipient magic and allure of Teresita without her roots in the first (and better) book. Urrea spent twenty years researching his family history, border unrest, guerrilla violence in the post-Civil War southwest, and revolution, so poignantly rendered in his first masterpiece.
At the center of both stories is the enigmatic and beautiful heroine, Teresita Urrea, named the Saint of Cabora by her legion of followers, when at sixteen, she was sexually assaulted, died, and subsequently rose from her coffin at her wake. She was denounced as a heretic by the Catholic Church but declared a saint by her devotees. An accomplished horsewoman and botanical shaman, she discovered the miracle of healing with her hands. Vanquishing pain and suffering with touch, Teresita has embodied her role with dignity, and sometimes despair, as she sacrifices her personal desires in order to combat social injustice and conquer disease.
Solitude is impossible, as she is followed by humble pilgrims and pursued by the Mexican government, greedy henchmen and dangerous lackeys. In the sequel, Teresita continues her journey and evolvement, with the primary question and theme of her life-- whether a saint can find her life's purpose and also fall in love. Along the way, she is entangled in conflicts between celebrity and simplicity, material wealth and spiritual well-being. Although she is idolized as a saint, she is, alas, human, with human emotions--such as lust, love, sorrow, pain, temptation. She makes mistakes, and is periodically confused and conflicted. It's hard to be a saint when you're made of flesh and blood and hormones.
After the Tomochic rebellion in Mexico in 1891, Teresita Urrea flees to the United States with her aging but ripe swashbuckler father, Tomas, known as Sky Catcher. She experiences romantic and cataclysmic love with an Indian mystic and warrior, eventually causing a serious breach with her father. When events spiral out of control, Teresita's journey takes her further and further from her homeland.
From Tucson, to El Paso, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York, and places everywhere in-between, this sequel is a journey from poverty and pestilence to an unknown, glittering, bustling, and modern America, a place that offers new opportunities for immigrant Teresita--prosperity, new romance, and celebrity. She is hunted by assassins, who claim she is the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution; harassed by profiteers, who want to arrange a consortium to exploit her healing abilities; and haunted daily by pilgrims everywhere, begging her to cure their ills.
Dickensian in scope, this ribald novel is peopled by the humble and the haughty, the meek and the mighty--pilgrims, prostitutes, yeoman, warriors, cowboys, vaqueros, royalty, revolutionaries, financial exploiters, gamblers, tycoons, corrupt politicians, drunks, rogues, and outlaws. It's gritty, bawdy, tender, and tumultuous, and sometimes turgid, as it meanders down several long and winding paths. When it stalls at intervals, patience and the love of prose and colorful character will keep the reader fastened. This will appeal to fans of high adventure, mixed with folktale wisdom and mystical fantasy. Big, vast skies and rough and tumble travel, this is an unforgettable story of love, purpose, and redemption.
A Mexican school's web page dedicated to Teresa Urrea reads: "La Santa de Cabora" (the Saint of Cabora) and underneath in red letters it says, "esta persona no es una santa y no debe ser considerada como tal" (this person is not a saint and she should not be considered as such). This clarification is probably not a far cry from the warnings that the Catholic Church and civil authorities circulated back in Teresa's days.
In "Queen of America," Luis Alberto Urrea, a descendant of the Saint of Cabora, pieces together a fictional account of her life after she and her father were exiled by the Mexican government to the United States in 1892 and until her death in 1906. A quick search on the Internet reveals the many and contradictory faces attributed to Teresa Urrea: the political activist and revolutionary fighting for social justice, human rights and women's equality; the God-sent healer revered by the poor and destitute; and the legend churned out by the sensationalist press. In his book, however, Mr. Urrea chooses to depict Teresa as a human being, vulnerable and flawed, longing for the things normal girls would have at her age, pining for love, and making poor choices. His is not a portrait of a revolutionary trailblazer but of a woman who was rather the pawn of circumstances and the self-interests of others. For the first 3/4 of the book, Teresa may come across as a bland character and at times she seems to be the device by which the author could introduce the cameo appearances of historical figures. However, the novel is saved by Tomas Urrea, Teresa's father. He casts a much larger shadow in the book and enlivens the story. It is through Tomas that the readers gain a view on what it was like and what it meant to live with Teresa, the celebrity. Tomas--mujeriego (womanizer), drunkard, entrepreneur, macho man, and proud hacendado-- is in this novel as colorful as Teresa is muted. His personality and his fatherly love-hate relationship with his daughter and yet, his complete loyalty to her are, for me, the fuel that will fire the interest of the readers and carry them to the end of the book.
For those who like historical fiction, the author has paid careful attention to details. From city and country landscapes, to historical events, to the abundant food served at the Urreas' ranch in Clifton, Mr. Urrea has proven he has done his research. For other readers, however, the long and lavish descriptions may make them lose sight of the story at times. As for the question of whether the Saint's powers were real or a hoax, the author does not give any answer other than the perceptions that those closed to her might have had. "Queen of America" may not dazzle but readers should leave with the feeling that there was more to the real Teresa and Tomas Urrea than fiction could ever surmise.
Note: the web page quoted in this review belongs to Escuela Cima