Review of ‘The Hummingbird’s Daughter’
Luis Alberto Urrea’s story about his great aunt, Mexican mystic Teresita Urrea (October 15, 1873 – January 11, 1906), is one of my top favorites of magical realism. It’s within the spirit of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and though it’s heresy to say it, might be better. The magic and language are gorgeous, overflowing, raw, earthy, occasionally violent and cannot help but cast a spell on every reader who enters their domain.
The novel’s cast of characters is large, but Urrea has fully developed all of the major players. The plot is epic, though the writing style makes it very human against the harsh backdrop of the desert, a world of cruel and lawless patriarchal men, and the trials of the Indians vs. a brutal Mexican government. The book is not only a great example of beautiful storytelling, but a glimpse into the history of a region which most people from the United States are unaware of.
While the story is told from the points of view of multiple characters, the passages from Teresita’s perspective are, perhaps, the most dear because they show how she developed from a marginal beginning into the revered “Saint of Cabora.” Her journey can easily be called a heroine’s journey because at every turn the odds of her survival, much less her success, are very much weighted against her. What an inspiration she was during her lifetime and now–110 years later–for readers of “The Hummingbird’s Daughter.”
Teresita and the events, characters, and locations in this novel are all exceptionally multidimensional, providing readers with an experience that’s so rich, it’s a time-travel immersion into another time and place as well as into Teresita’s shoes.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a 1950s-era story about a conjure woman who fights the Klan in the Florida Panhandle.