QUEEN OF AMERICA by Luis Alberto Urrea


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In his sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005), Urrea continues the mythic history of his great aunt Teresita as she begins a new life in the United States after escaping her political and religious enemies in Mexico in 1893.

While a young girl in Mexico, Teresita, called the Saint of Cabora, has developed a wide following of believers in the healing power of her touch, although she insists that God does the healing and she is merely a conduit. The Mexican government believes she also foments rebellion, the reason 19-year-old Teresita and her father Tomás Urrea flee to Arizona, where her father’s best friend, a politically active newspaperman, uses her popularity to rally public sentiment against the corrupt Mexican president. Violence as well as goodness seems to follow in her wake, yet all Teresita wants is to practice her healing. She is a fascinating mix of wisdom, love of life’s simple pleasures (like ice cream) and innocence, but is she a saint? As she and alcoholic, profane Tomás—a landowner who impregnated Teresita’s Indian mother—settle into Arizona society, Mexico sends agents to kill her. They all end up dead. But a more insidious evil eventually arrives in 1899: cruel but handsome Rodriguez, who marries her, them immediately tries to kill her; worse, he destroys her relationship with Tomás and her local reputation. She has no choice but to leave Arizona. In California a consortium of questionable businessmen sets her up as a healer under a devious contract that keeps her a virtual prisoner until the lovable rogue John Van Order, a friend from her earliest Arizona days, arrives and negotiates a better deal. As her fame and notoriety spread, Teresita and John travel across the country to New York City, where she struggles to maintain spiritual clarity despite tasting earthly luxury and human love.

Mixing religious mysticism, a panoramic view of history, a Dickensian cast of minor characters, low comedy and political breast-beating, Urrea’s sprawling yet minutely detailed saga both awes and exhausts. 

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-15486-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2011

Kirkus Interview
Luis Alberto Urrea
April 21, 2015

Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Luis Alberto Urrea’s latest story collection, The Water Museum, reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Urrea has also recently published a poetry collection, Tijuana Book of the Dead, mixing lyricism and colloquial voices, mysticism and the daily grind. We talk to Urrea about both of his new books this week on Kirkus TV. View video >


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