The long-awaited novel from this prize-,winning author: an epic mystical drama of a,young woman's sudden sainthood in late-19th,century Mexico. It is 1889 and civil war is,brewing in Mexico. A 16 year old girl, Teresita,illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy,and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from,the strangest dream. This passionate and,rebellious young woman has arisen from death with,a power to heal - but it will take all her faith,to endure the trials that await her now that she,has become the 'saint of Cabora.'
"Her powers were growing now, like her body. No one knew where the strange things came from. Some said they sprang up in her after the desert sojourn with Huila. Some said they came from somewhere else, some deep inner landscape no one could touch. That they had been there all along." Teresita, the real-life "Saint of Cabora," was born in 1873 to a 14-year-old Indian girl impregnated by a prosperous rancher near the Mexico-Arizona border. Raised in dire poverty by an abusive aunt, the little girl still learned music and horsemanship and even to read: she was a "chosen child," showing such remarkable healing powers that the ranch's medicine woman took her as an apprentice, and the rancher, Don Tom�s Urrea, took her-barefoot and dirty-into his own household. At 16, Teresita was raped, lapsed into a coma and apparently died. At her wake, though, she sat up in her coffin and declared that it was not for her. Pilgrims came to her by the thousands, even as the Catholic Church denounced her as a heretic; she was also accused of fomenting an Indian uprising against Mexico and, at 19, sentenced to be shot. From this already tumultuous tale of his great-aunt Teresa, American Book Award-winner Urrea (The Devil's Highway) fashions an astonishing novel set against the guerrilla violence of post-Civil War southwestern border disputes and incipient revolution. His brilliant prose is saturated with the cadences and insights of Latin-American magical realism and tempered by his exacting reporter's eye and extensive historical investigation. The book is wildly romantic, sweeping in its effect, employing the techniques of Catholic hagiography, Western fairy tale, Indian legend and everyday family folklore against the gritty historical realities of war, poverty, prejudice, lawlessness, torture and genocide. Urrea effortlessly links Teresita's supernatural calling to the turmoil of the times, concealing substantial intellectual content behind effervescent storytelling and considerable humor. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (May 17) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Little, Brown and Company
May 15, 2005
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Excerpt from The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
ON THE COOL OCTOBER MORNING when Cayetana Ch ' vez brought her baby to light, it was the start of that season in Sinaloa when the humid torments of summer finally gave way to breezes and falling leaves, and small red birds skittered through the corrals, and the dogs grew new coats.
On the big Santana rancho, the People had never seen paved streets, streetlamps, a trolley, or a ship. Steps were an innovation that seemed an occult work, stairways were the wicked cousins of ladders, and greatly to be avoided. Even the streets of Ocoroni, trod on certain Sundays when the People formed a long parade and left the safety of the hacienda to attend Mass, were dirt, or cobbled, not paved. The People thought all great cities had pigs in the streets and great muddy rivers of mule piss attracting hysterical swarms of wasps, and that all places were built of dirt and straw. They called little Cayetana the Hummingbird, using the mother tongue to say it: Semal ' .
On that October day, the fifteenth, the People had already begun readying for the Day of the Dead, only two weeks away. They were starting to prepare plates of the dead ' s favorite snacks: deceased uncles, already half-forgotten, still got their favorite green tamales, which, due to the heat and the flies, would soon turn even greener. Small glasses held the dead ' s preferred brands of tequila, or rum, or rompope: T ' o Pancho liked beer, so a clay flagon of watery Guaymas brew fizzled itself flat before his graven image on a family altar. The ranch workers set aside candied sweet potatoes, cactus and guayaba sweets, mango jam, goat jerky, dribbly white cheeses, all food they themselves would like to eat, but they knew the restless spirits were famished, and no family could afford to assuage its own hunger and insult the dead. Jes ' s! Everybody knew that being dead could put you in a terrible mood.
The People were already setting out the dead ' s favorite corn-husk cigarettes, and if they could not afford tobacco, they filled the cigarros with machuche, which would burn just as well and only make the smokers cough a little. Grandmother ' s thimble, Grandfather ' s old bullets, pictures of Father and Mother, a baby ' s umbilical cord in a crocheted pouch. They saved up their centavos to buy loaves of ghost bread and sugar skulls with blue icing on their foreheads spelling out the names of the dead they wished to honor, though they could not read the skulls, and the confectioners often couldn ' t read them either, an alphabet falling downstairs. Tom ' s Urrea, the master of the rancho, along with his hired cowboys, thought it was funny to note the grammatical atrocities committed by the candy skulls: Mart ' a, Jorse, Octablio. The vaqueros laughed wickedly, though most of them couldn ' t read, either. Still, they were not about to lead Don Tom ' s to think they were brutos, or worse ' pendejos.