By Luis Alberto Urrea
Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Little, Brown, and Company, c2005, 2006
Genres: Historical fiction, magical realism
Series: Not a series, but the author is currently working on a sequel to this book.
Intended audience: Adult
Number of pages: 499
Setting: Ocoroni, Sinaloa & Cabora (near Alamos), Sonora, Mexico
Time period: 1873 – 1892
Plot summary: When Teresita Urrea was born, Huila – the curandera of The People – knew that Teresita would become a powerful person one day. Born into extreme poverty as the daughter of a Mayo native and rich Mexican landowner, Teresita endures many hardships until Huila becomes responsible for her and begins teaching her the practice of healing. Teresita grows up on her father’s ranch as a wild child – riding horses and hanging out with the vaqueros – until she becomes an acknowledged member of the family as a teenager. After dying and returning to life, her healing practices and her life takes a radical shift as she becomes known as the “Saint of Cabora”.
Pacing: Moderate pace – with lots of breaks within chapters, action, and dialog, parts of the book read quite quickly. Other parts, which include poetic descriptions of places and events, dreams, and visions, read more slowly.
Characterization: Written in third person, the story is told from many various perspectives. The story begins with Cayetana’s perspective (Teresita’s mother); the other main perspectives include: Tomás (Teresita’s father), Huila, and Teresita.
Frame: The hummingbird is known to The People as a messenger to God; beliefs and spirituality frame this story.
Story line: A fictionalized story about the early life of the “Saint of Cabora” (who also happens to be a distant relative of the author).
Teenage girls — Mexico — Fiction.
Healers — Mexico — Fiction.
Women healers — Mexico — Fiction.
Illegitimate children — Mexico — Fiction.
Near-death experiences — Fiction.
Mexico — History — 1867-1910 — Fiction.
Similar authors: Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Gabriel García Márquez
Personal notes: I loved this book, even though I did not read it quickly. The dreamlike qualities of the story made me want to take my time with it (although I couldn’t take too long because there are many people waiting to read it). This is the first novel I’ve read by Urrea, but I don’t intend for it to be the last.
Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Mexicans, Native Americans: Mayo, Yaqui, Apache, Tomochiteco
Following the story, this book includes a “Reading Group Guide”, which includes “A conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea”, an essay, and discussion questions.