2005, Back Bay Books/Little, Brown
Oh, what a treat you’re in for if you haven’t yet picked up The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Written with a prose style so sharp and clean it flies along like the sprite in its title, this novel is a historical fiction piece based on a real woman.
Set during the time of the Mexican revolution, the story follows Teresita Urrea, a woman whose ability to heal others garners her the adoration reserved for saints. Starting with her early life, the narrative follows her family’s upheaval as they relocate the household to a place still attacked by Apache warriors.
There the father builds their new home, expands his business, and through it all, watches helplessly as his daughter–who only late was acknowledged as his child–draws around her the people who all seek some type of healing.
Just as Teresita was denied her father’s attention for the first years of her life, her teenage years are also not what might typically be found in the story of a saint. She suffers as much as any of the seekers who call her name. There are atrocities, some of which she witnesses being visited on others, and some of which are visited upon her. It is not always clear whether she will prevail.
Fortunately (for readers, anyway), there is a second book that continues this story. Urrea (the author) has also provided a glimpse into the strange and miraculous events that occurred while he researched this work; being able to read about these events arcs your thoughts back to the story and the compelling family met on these pages.
Pick this one up. You won’t regret it, I promise.
If you’d like to read a similar novel after this one, try The Family Made of Dust: A Novel of Loss and Rebirth in the Australian Outback (formerly called Message Stick).