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Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
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A-HummingbirdsDaughterThe only unusual thing about The Hummingbird’s illegitimate daughter Teresita (the mother is a poor Yaqui woman known to her tribe as this bird) is the red triangle-shaped birthmark on the child’s forehead. Teresita is soon left to fend for herself in the dusty fields owned by Don Tomas Urrea, a powerful and wealthy rancher near the Mexico-Arizona border. The precocious girl exhibits incredible healing powers early on, and her skills develop under the tutelage of a local curandera (female healer). In a just few years, in fact, she will be christened a saint and sought out by thousands of poor, sick souls. The author, a distant relative of the real-life Teresita, charts the young woman’s tumultuous journey from birth to sainthood.
Little, Brown. 512 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0316745464

Chicago Sun-Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"By turns fantastical and feverish, sobering and surreal, Urrea’s 500-page epic is a celebration of magical realism. … If Olympic medals were given for narrative athleticism, Urrea would get the gold." Allison Block

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"By the second paragraph of this luminous novel it’s clear that we’re securely in the hands of a fine storyteller. … This book is pure delight to read." Joanne Omang

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"While one wants to issue a ticket for DUI to most of the North American writers who try to take up this style, in Urrea’s case the giganticism and exaggeration and magical allusions seem perfectly justified…" Alan Cheuse

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"He writes in a style both poetic and sensual, with humor and irony highlighting every page." Laila Lalami

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Urrea’s book reimagines [Teresita’s] story on a grand scale, as a mix of leftist hagiography, mystical bildungsroman and melancholic national anthem. … Like a vast mural, the book displays a huge cast of workers, whores, cowboys, rich men, bandits and saints while simultaneously making them seem to float on the page." Stacey D’Erasmo

Critical Summary

Everyone raves about the grand, exquisitely detailed storytelling of the first-time novelist, though Urrea has written 10 previous books of nonfiction (see The Devil’s Highway, 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2004). The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a history lesson that follows the brewing rebellion in 1889 against a longtime Mexican dictator. Urrea meticulously captures day-to-day life among the poor farmers and their populist beliefs in their saint. Of course there’s also humor, heartbreak, torture, and perhaps a few too many descriptions. To sum up, we’ll leave it to The New York Times: "These 500 pages—though they could have been fewer—slip past effortlessly."