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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Queen of America - A Review

Like sweet nothings whispered by my lover to leave my marriage bed, to dalliance with her, I listened, spending the day enamored with Teresita, ‘Saint of Cabora’, until my wife accused me of an affair with the book and then I could not leave it alone until it was done and dusted.

Intended as a sequel to his other work, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, this novel stands alone in its own glory. Here, Urrea takes us on a journey with young Teresita, accompanied by her willful father, Tomas, as they leave their family ranch in Mexico where she is adored by many as a saint and pursued by others who saw her as the leader of rebellion, of change. Her father’s politics and her laying on of hands to heal caused mixed reactions in all they touched.

Along with their entourage, publishing mogul and rebel-rouser Don Lauro Aguirre and Segundo the trusted friend, the family moves to protect the Saint and to allow her to find the weary pilgrims, the sick and dying and instill hope whether it be in Yaquis, native to the area, or the son of rich businessmen travelling from afar, Teresita uses her powers, embodied in her after a near death experience as a child, as well as her healer’s knowledge of plants and roots, to heal all and sundry.

In an historical journey through Tucson, El Paso, San Francisco and back East to New York City we learn with great detail how this great land was tethered by rail and how commerce and religion where joined through newspapers to spread the word. We learn how a revered healer can be seen as a witch under other religious customs and we follow their plight through all its trials and tribulations. Not since John Galworthy wrote about the Forsyths has a saga of a family been so documented.

From his humble beginnings to now revered storyteller, this masterpiece elevates Urrea to a class above his peers, a first class, nay master class writer, who lays the narrative with poetic license at our feet, painting postcards with paragraphs. If Teresita is the Queen then surely, today, Urrea is King.

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