Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Books: The Hummingbird's Daughter

The Hummingbird's Daughter
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Copyright 2005
499 pages
Kindle Edition

My book club chose this book for its March read. I daresay it will be among the best books I read this year.

Luis Urrea has created an intriguing world and characters based on nonfiction. In this story, which is set in Mexico, Teresa is a waif born of a woman known as The Hummingbird. Teresa is left on her aunt's doorstep, and pretty much left to fend for herself.

Teresa has a keen mind and quick wit. She is an astute observer of humanity, and Huila, the local healer, takes her under her wing. She teaches Teresa (aka Teresita) every thing she knows.

Along the way Teresa is noticed by Tomas, the lord of the ranch, and he eventually recognizes her as his daughter. Tomas is an interesting character in his own right, a man's man who takes women when he wants them and who lives in different worlds - the one his wife has created, and the more wild one he prefers.

Teresita learns to be a midwife and accompanies Huila on healing missions. The child appears to have great powers, and eventually this comes to be. Teresita dies and returns to life even as her family is telling her goodbye. She is hailed as a saint, who then performs miracles.

As in all things, politics plays a huge role, and religion is nothing if not political. The Catholic leaders cannot allow this heresy, and as rebellion stirs throughout the nation, the government and religious leaders move to shut off anything they deem a threat.

I will say no more to allow the reader to find out for herself what happens here, but suffice it to say the ending is fitting.

This book is an interesting commentary on religion, human relations, the patriarchy, government, and immigration. Who really should run a country, anyway? The people in some far-distant land or the locals who know what is going on? The conquerors who arrive with guns ablaze or the simple people who eek out a marginal living. And who is to say what religion is or isn't, and what is wrong or right?

My favorite quote from the book was this:
"The doing of good is the only prayer that God requires." Teresita spoke these words to pilgrims who flocked to her.

This was a long book but it moved very quickly. It took me a while to read it but I never grew bored. Many of the chapters are very short, and there appears to be a good deal of white space as transition throughout the book.

The page numbers are listed at top for reference, but as I read it on my Kindle I am not certain how long it was. I am categorizing this as fiction but it is really historical fiction based on truth, as the main character really existed.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Glad you liked it!


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