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The Hummingbird's Daughter    by Luis Alberto Urrea order for
Hummingbird's Daughter
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A biographical tale with lots of sly humor, The Hummingbird's Daughter is set in the sprawling ranchlands of northwestern Mexico. The author tells us the novel is based on family accounts of his great-aunt Teresita. We follow her life from birth to when she is spirited away on a train to El Paso.

Born of an illiterate farm worker, Teresita has a healing gift. She is nourished in this by an old midwife, Huila, who is not only a healer but a truly original character. Teresita must come to turns with this. It means her life is really not her own. She also has to learn the terrible power of her gift and when and how to use it. All this while trying to grow up!

As interesting as her story is, it is the cast of characters surrounding her that occupies much of our attention. We have town dwellers, ranch hands, cowboys, outlaws, Indian warriors, clergy, a scientist observer, and most of all, we have Teresita's father, Don Tomás Urrea, a bigger-than-life patrón, legendary rider, lover and bewildered father many times over. Urrea brings to life this man with his wild humor and huge appetite for everything around him. He is a person destined to protect the weak and honor all the peoples of Mexico, including the Indians.

These are revolutionary times and because of her gift, Teresita is accused by the clergy of fomenting trouble, when in fact all she tries to do is heal the infirm. Her father, of course, is implicated because he supports her, though he does not understand much of her gift. It is said that her gift might have given the People courage to begin their revolt. The political side to her is not really made clear to us.

Rather, what we have is a great story about a complicated family living in a time of uncertainty and change, and a father who finally does begin to understand and take responsibility for his extraordinary daughter.

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