Summary and book reviews of The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird's Daughter

By Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird's Daughter
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  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    512 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    528 pages.

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Book Summary

From one of America's most beloved authors, a tale of miracles and passion

Teresita is not an ordinary girl. Born of an illiterate, poor Indian mother, she knows little about her past or her future. She has no idea that her father is Don Tomas Urrea, the wild and rich owner of a vast ranch in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. She has no idea that Huila, the elderly healer who takes Teresita under her wing, knows secrets about her destiny. And she has no idea that soon all of Mexico will rise in revolution, crying out her name.

When Teresita is but a teenager, learning from Huila the way plants can cure the sick and prayer can move the earth, she discovers an even greater gift: she has the power to heal. Her touch, like warm honey, melts pain and suffering. But such a gift can be a burden, too. Before long, the Urrea ranch is crowded with pilgrims and with agents of a Mexican government wary of anything that might threaten its power.

A spectacular novel as grand as a western sunset, The Hummingbird's Daughter is the story of a girl coming to terms with her destiny, with the miraculous, and with the power of faith. It is the tale of a father discovering what true love is and a daughter recognizing that sometimes true love requires true sacrifice. Full of cowboys and outlaws, Indian warriors and cantina beauties, silly men who drink too much and desert women who in their dreams travel to the seashore, The Hummingbird's Daughter is Luis Urrea's majestic masterpiece, the story of one girl's life and the swollen heart of all Mexico.

One

ON THE COOL OCTOBER MORNING when Cayetana Chávez brought her baby to light, it was the start of that season in Sinaloa when the humid torments of summer finally gave way to breezes and falling leaves, and small red birds skittered through the corrals, and the dogs grew new coats.

On the big Santana rancho, the People had never seen paved streets, streetlamps, a trolley, or a ship. Steps were an innovation that seemed an occult work, stairways were the wicked cousins of ladders, and greatly to be avoided. Even the streets of Ocoroni, trod on certain Sundays when the People formed a long parade and left the safety of the hacienda to attend Mass, were dirt, or cobbled, not paved. The People thought all great cities had pigs in the streets and great ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Many readers and reviewers have compared The Hummingbird’s Daughter to the work of Gabriel García Márquez. How apt do you consider this comparison? Is The Hummingbird’s Daughter a work of magical realism? Why or why not?

  2. One reviewer noted that The Hummingbird’s Daughter employs the techniques of “Catholic hagiography, Western fairy tale, Indian legend, and everyday family folklore.” Do you agree? Are elements of each of these literary traditions present in this book? Give examples to support your answer.

  3. The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a wildly romantic work of fiction, but it is, in fact, grounded in historical truth. Luis Alberto Urrea conducted two decades of research, and to this day La ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Washington Post - Joanne Omang

To the very end, The Hummingbird's Daughter is a book of surprises and savory treasures. Urrea's much-praised recent work, The Devil's Highway, was a journalistic re-creation of the deaths of 14 Mexicans who crossed illegally into the U.S. southern desert in 2001. He has loosened his expressive reportorial skills to write lyrical fiction, and we can only be grateful.

Library Journal - Lawrence Olszewski

... though he excels at describing the atmosphere of a familiar world, the dialog is often stilted, and the telling of the insurrection and miracles lacks conviction.

Kirkus Reviews

Only at the end does Urrea fully evoke Teresita's incandescent spiritual power-that, otherwise, is a mildly engaging look at life on a prerevolutionary Mexican ranch, with amusingly irreverent touches.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Urrea effortlessly links Teresita's supernatural calling to the turmoil of the times, concealing substantial intellectual content behind effervescent storytelling and considerable humor.

Reader Reviews
Risa

The first half is great...
Generally, I enjoyed The Hummingbird's Daughter. The characters are (mostly) full and compelling, and the first half of the book is especially rich in detail and sharp prose. My one complaint is that the second half of the novel - which contains most...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Urrea (pronounced oo-RAY-ah) was born in Tijuana, Mexico. His father was Mexican, his mother from New York. When he was three his family moved to San Diego where he grew up and attended college. He currently teaches at the University of Illinois (Full bio)

The Hummingbird's Daughter is based on the real-life story of his Great Aunt Teresita, the 'Saint of Cabora'. She was born in 1873 to a 14-year-old Indian girl impregnated by a local rancher. Raised in poverty by an abusive aunt she managed to learn music ...

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