Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Hummingbird's Daughter

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

This is an epic novel. It covers essentially 19 years of the life of Teresa Urrea a.k.a. Santa Teresa de Cabora. Teresa Urrea was a real person and was a distant cousin of the author. He grew up hearing tales of her but thought they were all myth until he found actual documentation of her life. After over 20 years of research, came this novel.

This novel is rich and compelling and felt similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). I loved it yet it took me forever to read. A large part of this was that I was otherwise occupied with my time. Another part was the scope of the book. This is not a difficult read (weird syntax, antiquated English, etc.) but for some reason it requires that the reader take their time and savor the story. I read another of the author's books, Into the Beautiful North, and I enjoyed it very much. This book is bigger and more grandiose perhaps just because of the historic nature of the story.

Teresa Urrea lived from 1873 until 1906. According to the novel she was a bastard daughter of a wealthy Mexican man and an Indian servant that everyone called "the hummingbird". She became a curandera, a healer, and was also called a saint. Her name was cried out by the indigenous people as they went to war against the invading Mexicans. In the nineteen years of her life covered in the book, she lived a remarkable life. Much about her life is not known so the author has created a rich novel to fill in the holes that history has left.

I highly recommend this book to anyone not afraid to tackle the 499 pages that are often sprinkled with Spanish. Enjoy!

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