BookBrowse Reviews The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

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The Hummingbird's Daughter

by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea X
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 528 pages

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The story of one girl's life and the swollen heart of all Mexico.

From the book jacket: Teresita is not an ordinary girl. Born of an illiterate, poor Indian mother, she knows little about her past or her future.... As a teenager she learns 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.  The Hummingbird's Daughter is Luis Urrea's majestic masterpiece, the story of one girl's life and the swollen heart of all Mexico.

Comment: Urrea says it took him 20 years to craft this Mexican love-song (labelled an instant classic of Hispanic literature by some reviewers), which combines magical realism and sobering reality in a story based on real-life events.  A number of reviewers comment on Urrea's extraordinary skill in sustaining the story through 500 pages.  As one puts it, "If Olympic medals were given for narrative athleticism, Urrea would get gold".  This is his first novel since In Search of Snow (1994), but you may recollect hearing about him more recently due to his non-fiction work, The Devil's Highway, which was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize.

"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." - The Washington Post.

What is magical-realism? Magical realism is a style of writing that combines fantastic elements with realism. The term was first used by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in 1949.  Many Latin-American writers use the technique, to the point that it has become synonymous with Latin-American authors, but other writers such as Salman Rushdie also employ magical-realism from time to time.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2005, and has been updated for the April 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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