Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Hummingbird's Daughter

The Hummingbird’s Daughter is the kind of ask no questions novel that you surrender yourself to.  Author Luis Alberto Urrea has based his novel on the life of his Aunt Teresita, the “Saint of Cabors”. If even half of the events in the book really happened then Aunt Teresita had an amazing life. Teresita’s life is a series journeys between poverty, revolutions and miracles.
Teresita was born out of wedlock in 1873 to a fourteen year old Yaqui girl and a rich rancher near the Mexico-Arizona border. Despite living in gut wrenching poverty Teresita shows that she has “gifts” and comes to the attention of the local medicine woman who takes Teresita on as an apprentice. This leads to Teresita being taken into her Father’s home and recognized by him as his daughter. When this happy ending is brutally torn apart it paves the way for the miracle that changes Teresita’s forever.
Teresita’s life is a pilgrimage. Among disenfranchised, the believers, the native peoples and the working class Mexicans her healing gifts win her a passionate following. Teresita’s own belief in her powers is not as steadfast. Those abilities also make her a person of interest to the Mexican government and the Catholic Church.       
Urrea’s writing captures the scope that a cradle to grave story requires by coupling Teresita’s story with a larger view of the period and by removing Terrsita’s halo. His portrait of the “Saint of Cabors” does not whitewash the woman that Teresita was or the people who surrounded her.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a storyteller’s novel. The writing is lush, the story is equal parts sacred and profane and it moves at an agreeably leisurely pace.

P.S. These are the many covers The Hummingbird’s Daughter has had. The edition I read had this cover on the left, an earlier edition had the cover bellow. These paperback covers are so pedestrian, so expecte. They are generic historical fiction covers #4 and #2. Snooze.

The big winner is the original hardcover. Isn’t this gorgeous? Why wasn’t this cover used on the paperback?

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