HUMMINGBIRD HOUSE by Patricia Henley

HUMMINGBIRD HOUSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a carefully crafted but overwrought first novel, an American midwife experiencing compassion fatigue cannot escape the claims of love and duty. Henly’s stary, a not-so-subtle homily on the evils of war, capitalism, and the US government, should outrage—it’s a tale of violence against children and well-meaning political activists—but its characters are too one-dimensional to be compelling. Fortyish Kate Banner, an American midwife now living in the Guatemala highlands, has always wanted to help the less fortunate. Prompted by a visit from her first lover, Paul, she recalls the events that brought her and street child Marta to Guatemala eight years ago, after Kate had first worked in refugee camps in Mexico, then Nicaragua. But after a long romance (with Deaver, a weapons supplier to the rebels) ended, and a young mother whose baby she delivered unexpectedly died, she felt she had to get away. She was worn out, she told Mar°a, a colleague and friend who suggested she go to Guatemala, where friends had a house. Once there, Kate found she had to share lodgings with attractive Father Dixie Ryan, on a leave of absence from the Church. Though still emotionally drained, Kate is soon helping Vidal£z, whose activist husband, Hector, has been unlawfully detained, and the traumatized street-child Marta. She is also increasingly attracted to Dixie, and a series of crises——Kate is briefly arrested, Mar°a and her lover are killed, and Hector brutally murdered—bring them together, and they move, along with Marta, to Hummingbird House, a farm Dixie hopes to turn into a cooperative when he leaves the priesthood. But even the countryside is not immune from war, and Kate must contend with more tragedy before she learns to find fulfillment, rather than mere consolation, in working to improve the peasants’ lives. Kate and her good deeds don’t shine as brightly as they should in this schematic take on the suffering of the innocents.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1999
ISBN: 1-878448-87-0
Page count: 300pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999