QUEEN OF AMERICA by Luis Alberto Urrea
“Who is more of an outlaw than a saint?”
Review by Betsey Van HornÂ (NOV 30, 2011)
Like its predecessor, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Urreaâ€™s sequel, Queen of America is a panoramic, picaresque, sprawling, sweeping novel that dazzles us with epic destiny, perilous twists, and high romance, set primarily in Industrial era America (and six years in the authorâ€™s undertaking). Based on Urreaâ€™s real ancestry, this historical fiction combines family folklore with magical realism and Western adventure at the turn of the twentieth century.
It starts where the first book left off, and can be read as a stand-alone, according to the marketing and product description. However, I stoutly recommend that readers read The Hummingbird’s Daughter first. The two stories are part of a heroic saga; you shouldnâ€™t cut off the head to apprehend the tale. You cannot capture the incipient magic and allure of Teresita without her roots in the first (and better) book. Urrea spent twenty years researching his family history, border unrest, guerrilla violence in the post-Civil War southwest, and revolution, so poignantly rendered in his first masterpiece.
At the center of both stories is the enigmatic and beautiful heroine, Teresita Urrea, named the Saint of Cabora by her legion of followers, when at sixteen, she was sexually assaulted, died, and subsequently rose from her coffin at her wake. She was denounced as a heretic by the Catholic Church but declared a saint by her devotees. An accomplished horsewoman and botanical shaman, she discovered the miracle of healing with her hands. Vanquishing pain and suffering with touch, Teresita has embodied her role with dignity, and sometimes despair, as she sacrifices her personal desires in order to combat social injustice and conquer disease.
Solitude is impossible, as she is followed by humble pilgrims and pursued by the Mexican government, greedy henchmen and dangerous lackeys. In the sequel, Teresita continues her journey and evolvement, with the primary question and theme of her life– whether a saint can find her lifeâ€™s purpose and also fall in love. Along the way, she is entangled in conflicts between celebrity and simplicity, material wealth and spiritual wellbeing. Although she is idolized as a saint, she is, alas, human, with human emotionsâ€”such as lust, love, sorrow, pain, temptation. She makes mistakes, and is periodically confused and conflicted. Itâ€™s hard to be a saint when youâ€™re made of flesh and blood and hormones.
After the Tomochic rebellion in Mexico in 1891, Teresita Urrea flees to the United States with her aging but ripe swashbuckler father, Tomas, known as Sky Catcher. She experiences romantic and cataclysmic love with an Indian mystic and warrior, eventually causing a serious breach with her father. When events spiral out of control, Teresitaâ€™s journey takes her further and further from her homeland.
From Tucson, to El Paso, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York, and places everywhere in-between, this sequel is a journey from poverty and pestilence to an unknown, glittering, bustling, and modern America, a place that offers new opportunities for immigrant Teresitaâ€”-prosperity, new romance, and celebrity. She is hunted by assassins, who claim she is the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution; harassed by profiteers, who want to arrange a consortium to exploit her healing abilities; and haunted daily by pilgrims everywhere, begging her to cure their ills.
Dickensian in scope, this ribald novel is peopled by the humble and the haughty, the meek and the mightyâ€”pilgrims, prostitutes, yeoman, warriors, cowboys, vaqueros, royalty, revolutionaries, financial exploiters, gamblers, tycoons, corrupt politicians, drunks, rogues, and outlaws. Itâ€™s gritty, bawdy, tender, and tumultuous, and sometimes turgid, as it meanders down several long and winding paths. When it stalls at intervals, patience and the love of prose and colorful character will keep the reader fastened. This will appeal to fans of high adventure, mixed with folktale wisdom and mystical fantasy. Big, vast skies and rough and tumble travel, this is an unforgettable story of love, purpose, and redemption.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 4 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Little, Brown and Company; Import edition (November 28, 2011)|
|REVIEWER:||Betsey Van Horn|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Luis Alberto Urrea|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
- In Search of Snow (1994)
- Wandering Time: Western Notebooks (1999)
- Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction (2002)
- The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005)
- Mr Mendoza’s Paintbrush (2009)
- Into the Beautiful North (2009)
- Queen of America (December 2011)
The Border Trilogy Memoirs:
- Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border (1993)
- By the Lake of Sleeping Children: The Secret Life of the Mexican Border (1996)
- Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life (1998)
November 30, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 1900s, Job-centered, Latin American, Magical Realism, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: California, Facing History, italy, Latin American/Caribbean, Mexico, NE & New York, New Orleans, New York City, Texas, United Kingdom, US Southwest, Washington, D.C., Wild West