Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter

My review of Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter appears in the Sunday Oregonian. Here’s a snippet:

Part family saga, part chronicle of a tumultuous time in Mexican history, the novel is an enduring examination of the ways in which the divine and the logical come together, and how even the most reasoned people sometimes must surrender to the beauty of that which they cannot see.

Urrea has more than just a creative interest in this saint — Teresita’s real name is Teresa Urrea; she is his great-aunt. But this familial relationship is to the reader’s benefit: The story of the saint is told with such love and care that it will make a believer out of anyone.

I am far from alone in my praise of the novel. The Hummingbird’s Daughter has been collecting rave reviews so far. (See for example Marta Barber’s review in the Miami Herald and David Hiltbrand’s write up in San Jose Mercury News.) You can also check out this post, by Los Angeles writer (and frequent contributor) Dan Olivas, and read his interview with the author:

DANIEL OLIVAS: One of the things the rave reviews keep on mentioning is the fact that your novel is based on a real person–your aunt. Why did you decide to fictionalize her life rather than attempt outright biography?

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: The simplest answer is you can’t footnote a dream. The book has taken many forms over the years of research. But fiction kept asserting itself. I think the magic of fiction is that in many ways it’s more true than non-fiction. By that I mean that fiction can take you into truths of feeling and it lends itself better to the kind of trance that allows a reader to smell and taste the world I’m trying to evoke. Also, as a lifelong reader, I can say that I come from a generation where the great achievement was the novel. So, you know, I wanted to try to honor her with an attempt at a masterpiece. You never know if you’ve gotten there or not, but no guts, no glory.

So, do yourself a favor, and go read The Hummingbird’s Daughter.