Several bloggers have reviewed The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. Most notably Trevor at Rake’s Progress did one for the Rocky Mountain News. Daniel Olivas interviewed the author at The Elegant Variation. I started reading it last week and have been caught up in it ever since. Bloggers and newspaper reviewers have invoked Marquez and magical realism to describe Urrea’s work, so I’ll let that one pass. I think the comparison to Marquez is somewhat superficial, a reliable way for North Americans to categorize Latin American fiction, not in a patronizing way precisely, but as a means of understanding what the magic of the story really is.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter makes me think of Cervantes, of the comedy and tragedy entwined in everyday life. Mexico in the Nineteenth century offers Urrea a rich setting, one he plunges into with immediate gusto. In telling the story of Teresita, Urrea manages to satirize most forms of government, all forms of servitude, the hypocrisy of religion, great men, war, wealth, superstition, and greed without any clumsy diatribes from his characters. This is a great novel, one of those books you read over and over. I’ll be commenting on this work for some time, and I hope that it garners enough attention to sustain that interest for years to come.