The Hummingbird's Daughter

AuthorLuis Alberto Urrea
FinishedJuly 17, 2020
Rating4.8 / 5

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This book was so beautifully written. I couldn't stop thinking about it while I was reading it. The language - so beautiful, so compelling. Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And the story. It was so good. The character growths of Teresita and of Tomas were astounding. They both grow so much through the book. The other characters were all so alive and so distinct. Huila the healer, and Gaby, and Segundo, and Buenaventura, all of them, so alive and distinct and so funny in their own ways. Urrera's usage of humor worked so well with his writing. I think that is part of what made the characters all feel so vivid.

some of his scenes are so well done I keep thinking about them. Often they are so short but they pack so much. Like when the People move to Cabora and the one time Tomas takes a girl to sleep with and just shows how much he loves women. Like when Teresita and her two friends are lying in bed and giggling and making fun of boys and things like that. Like when she and Cruz are on the porch, sort of flirting, sort of not.

About Tomas - I liked him as a character a lot. He had a lot of personal struggles (miracles vs reason) and a lot of faults (cheating on his wife a lot) but he was also so damn likeable. You can't NOT have respect for him because of the way he leads and the way he interacts with his friends, servants, men, Indians. You root for him because he longs so much to ride away on a horse and be wild and free. And he respects women - so it's crazy because even though he cheats on women, he also loves them. He just loves women so much. and that was such a cool, new way to portray a "womanizer" - as someone who actually loves women, rather than someone driven by ego and masochistic reasons.

I also liked how he portrayed women. Urrera did a fantastic job showing so many distinct, fully-developed women characters. Huila and Teresita and Gaby. They were full characters with desires and lives and wonders and humor and personalities and he explored them so well. In such gentle, deliberate, respectful ways.

Some of the best parts

  • "One day," she said, "the world will be ruled by women, and things will be different" (26)
  • "the hills are old, too, and they are still covered in flowers" (40)
  • "All these women, Huila thought: Mothers of God. These skinny, these dirty and toothless, these pregnant and shoeless. These with an issue of blood, and these with unsuckled breasts and children cold in the grave. These old forgotten ones too weak to work. These fat ones who milked all day. ... "(92)
  • "The people tied their miserable bundles. They were amazed that they had less than they thought they had; it was a wonder to them that it took so long to pack nothing." (113)
  • "Teresita was learning, to her undying shock, that the old one didn't have answers for everything." (172)
    • As Teresita learns for the first time to think more independently, that Huila doesn't have all the answers
  • Tomas and women
    • "She was quite beautiful, in Tomas's opinion, but he thought almost every woman he saw was quite beautiful" (187)
  • "You are a strong girl, and you are also a wild boy ... We are both man and woman. My brothers can be tender as mothers with their infants. Women can fight like tigers. Don't you see? We are all a mix of each. Power starts when you strike the proper balance." (216)
  • "Tomas wanted no one to be wild if he himself could not run free" (279)
  • Huila dying: "Her heart, drying in the desert within her" (322)
    • "Her body grew hard, stiff as a plank of shaved pine, all her bones sharp and unforgiving in her shrinking flesh" (322)
  • "She fell into her hot heavy stinking body. Not dreaming, returning. The lilt of wings in her veins melted back into meat and the slowness of blood. Her fingers slipped down her own fingers, as if they were empty gloves." (348)
  • "Then they were supposed to die. I can only do what I can do. To try to do more would be a lie. A lie is worse than doing nothing." (374)
  • "The word of reason must be a lonely place" (394)
  • When Teresita teaches Tomas how to pluck and pop lice, it's so wholesome
  • "His fingers were blank with ink" (412)
  • "Their voices were old, dry as the desert around them" (412)
  • "You are always a universe of choices." (487)
    • "Learn to see. This is your life, what it looks like to God. Every second of every day."
    • "Most of us trudge in a straight line. All day every day, we march like sleep. Look straight ahead. What do you see?"
    • "My own face"
    • "We spend our lives walking into our own mirrors. All we see is ourselves as we walk down the road"