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Patron Saint

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 13, 2006 3:41PM

Humming.jpgSome of our favorite stories are the ones where something truly extra-ordinary happens to an ordinary person. Movies like "The Exorcist" or "The Possession of Emily Rose" scare the bejeezus out of us; to watch a young girl turn into something more than human feels like an inborn, genetic nightmare, that both compels and repels us.

But what if that extraordinary event is one that turns a girl into a full fledged miracle worker? What if a girl dies and comes back to life with the power to heal her people? This scenario is the story of “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Chicago author, Luis Alberto Urrea. The “based on a true story” epic novel explains the early life and eventual sainthood of Urrea’s aunt, Theresa Urrea.

Theresa is the daughter of Thomas Urrea, the down-to-earth Patron of the Urrea Ranch. While Thomas teaches Theresa about logic and realism, Theresa’s other mentor, Huila, teaches her healing and mysticism. Theresa seems out of place in a world where men make decisions. Her innate curiosity leads her to read, write, and question her world. And even though Huila tells her that “This life was only meant for us to endure, not to enjoy. If you were born to be nail, you had to be hammered”, Theresa is very rarely “hammered“ due to her inner strength and intelligence.

In a truly painful, fearful and beautiful moment, Theresa is murdered by an angry ranch-hand. She pulls a Lazarus, and after three days, rises from the dead, with the new-found power to heal.

The book is just lovely, with a couple of laugh out loud moments. When Theresa wakes up from her temporary death, her father ponders “How was one to be a father to a dead girl? Did one scold her? Correct her?”.

We’ll admit, there were times when we skimmed ahead, but in all truth, it was only so we could speed up the titillating transformation of Theresa. We care for her and admire her feminism and strength, but at the same time, she fills us with dread, because we know powers like these rarely lead to happily ever after.

You can see Luis Alberto Urrea on Wed., June 14th, 7:00PM at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka. (847) 446.8880.