Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hummingbird's Daughter, Luis Albert Urrea

From The New YorkerTwenty years in the making, Urrea's epic novel recounts the true story of his great-aunt Teresita. In 1873, amid the political turbulence of General Porfirio Díaz's Mexican republic, Teresita is born to a fourteen-year-old Indian girl, "mounted and forgotten" by her white master. Don Tomàs Urrea later takes his illegitimate daughter into his home, where she learns to bathe every week and read "Las Hermanas Brontë." But Teresita also continues a folk education as a curandera, discovering healing powers and a mystical relationship with God. Indian pilgrims swarm to the Urrea ranch, where "St. Teresita," a mestiza Joan of Arc, kindles in them a powerful faith in God and a perilous hunger for revolution. The novel brings to life not only the deeply pious figure whom Díaz himself dubbed "the Most Dangerous Girl in Mexico" but also the blood-soaked landscape of pre-revolutionary Mexico. Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

In spite of the fact that universally, national reviews were glowing the notes from our discussion were:
B: disappointed, it was a good story, but not engaging. I had higher expectations.
H: agreed, it was disappointing. It would have been good to be able to get inside the psyche of a character.
C: didn't like thew writing, struggled for the first 200 pages. The narratives were simplistic, but the dialog was good.
A: First 200 pages were hard, but the back end was great. "I didn't hate it." Some characters were likable, such as Don Tomas Huila.
The ending was a little too Hollywood, and jumbled.
The book was sold as fiction, but the people were real, some didn't like the blurring of lines, but C pointed out that the persons were real and the story is folklore, so it has to be fiction.
The story also wasn't clear about the timeline, and the time frame of when the story takes place is unclear until the end of the book.
However, we could buy into the mysticism of the story even though most things could be explained. "I'm happy to suspend disbelief for stories.

Lastly, there were quite a few passages in Spanish with no translation, or even contextual clues to aid the non-Spanish reader.

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