Luis Alberto Urrea is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Midwest Writing Center’s David R. Collins Writer’s Conference on June 22, 2017, so I decided I should read at least one of his books. I was happy to discover he wrote historical fiction, so I chose The Hummingbird’s Daughter.
The story takes place in the late 1880s in Mexico and essentially presents the life story of Teresita from before birth through death. It is beautifully written with vivid imagery and Spanish words sprinkled in to give it Mexican flavor. It is full of the supernatural and spiritual, intertwining them beautifully.
If there was one different choice I may have made as an author, it would’ve been to begin the story later. Showing Teresita’s mother and fate before Teresita was a little girl reminded me a little of backstory dumping or the author forcing in facts. The extra material at the beginning delayed my getting engaged with the story.
Once I did, though, when Teresita hit her pre-teen years, I was hooked. There are a lot of characters in the story and the author trades point-of-view among them, but there is a “family” tree at the beginning of the book and it didn’t take me long to get a handle on who was who. The writing seemed authentic and painted a vivid picture of life in pre-civil-war Mexico. And I loved that it was based on family lore substantiated by discovered articles. Though I don’t know for sure, of course, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of historical fiction based in Mexico, so this provided a refreshing new period and place to explore.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Mexican history, the supernatural, spirituality, and coming-of-age stories. I enjoyed it, so much his other historical fiction book is on its way to me. Just because of the slow start, on a can’t-put-it-down-scale of one for I couldn’t even finish it to ten for I was up until the wee morning hours, I give it a six and a half.
Source: Urrea, Luis Alberto. (2005). The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Back Bay Books.