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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-12
- Reviewer: Staff
The historical Teresita Urrea, the “Saint of Cabora,” flees Mexico with her father after the Tomóchic rebellion of 1891, in Urrea’s sequel to the bestselling The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Pursued by assassins, the Urreas seek sanctuary in rural Arizona. Teresita’s father drinks heavily and refuses to accept the charity of pilgrims who’ve come to follow Teresita; the Urreas travel to Tucson, meeting the Von Order brothers, John and Harry. Teresita feels an immediate attraction to Harry, despite her burgeoning saintly powers. Father and daughter then move on to El Paso, where Teresita reluctantly takes a job as a journalist. She falls in love with a man and once again her saintliness conflicts with her romantic desires. She has a brief, unhappy marriage before finding redemption through the first of her many healings. This new chapter of her life leads her to San Francisco and then New York, where a sinister consortium exploits her abilities, working her nine to five and forcing her to choose between the saintly grace and simplicity of her old life and the modern trappings of fame, fortune, and romantic love. Despite a trundling life-story narrative that at times loses focus, and several flat passages, Urrea delivers a rich mix of Wild West and magic realism. (Dec.)
A pilgrim’s progress
It took Luis Alberto Urrea 20 years to write his mystical bestseller, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, which was released in 2005. Lucky for readers, it did not take him nearly as long to return to his beloved heroine Teresita in this captivating sequel, Queen of America. With deft humor and a poetic lyricism that seamlessly folds one scene into another, Urrea unfolds the story of his real-life great-aunt Teresita, a teenage saint who was known for healing miracles.
This book picks up where The Hummingbird’s Daughter left off, at the turn of the 20th century. Following the catastrophic Tomochic rebellion, mystic Teresita (“The Saint of Cobora”) is banned from returning to Mexico. Together with her lush of a father, she traipses from one state to the next, hiding out from deadly assassins. But it’s not only the Mexican government that is after her. Many are desperate to find Teresita, whether they are attempting to kill her, exploit her as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution, or simply be physically cured by her.
While Teresita’s bawdy father attempts to drown his loneliness in liquor, Teresita encounters and befriends two dashing brothers, a surrogate mother, some medical charlatans and a sociopathic singer who holds both lust and murder in his heart. Torn by her familial bonds and her allegiance to her lover, Teresita must figure out how she can handle both saving the crowd and indulging her romantic whims.
Each scene in Queen of America unfurls gracefully like delicate wisps of smoke. Whether Teresita is being held captive in Northern California by a band of profiteering medical professionals, or being feted like a queen in New York’s social circles, this epic novel paints a portrait of America—and its inhabitants—with grace and style. It will spark fire in readers’ hearts.