Queen of America

This epic novel (496 pages) finishes the life of Teresita Urrea, the life begun in The Hummingbird's Daughter, the true story of the author's great-aunt. In 1873, amid the political maelstrom of dictator Díaz's Mexican republic, Teresita was born to a 14-year-old Indian girl. Her father, Don Tomàs Urrea, eventually owned up to fathering her, took her into his home and exposed her to the niceties of a life lived indoors--a bath now and then, books and conversation. Teresita also became a curandera, with healing powers and a personal and mystical relationship with God.

At the turn of the century, after the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, by now a beloved healer called the "Saint of Cabora," is perceived as dangerous to Díaz, and is ultimately driven out of Mexico.

She and her father seek safety in Arizona--this is where Queen of America begins. Teresita travels, with and without her father, across the United States to San Francisco, St. Louis and finally to New York. At every stop, she is hailed as a saint, heals people, and wonders when and how it will end. Her life is a paradox: on the one hand, she is privileged to be an instrument of God; on the other, she is trapped in a life she doesn't want. She longs for "normal."

When Teresita is lonely, having left her father, she sends for an old friend, to be her translator in America. They fall in love, live as a married couple and have two children together. He is a roustabout and a drinker, jealous of Teresita's fame, but still protective of her, mostly because she is his cash cow.

She becomes the toast of the town in New York, feted, fed and pampered by wealthy socialites looking for a pet. Who better than a saint? But she is moving away from her roots, from her connection to God and from her purpose on earth--"The higher I climbed, the farther I strayed." Until this time, she has not been reflective, just cranky and disappointed about her lot in life. With the inspiration of the curandera who taught her, Teresita reprioritizes her life in the hope of a better outcome.

It's a grand story, an adventure filled with the hilarious antics of Don Tomàs and his friends--drinkers, womanizers, gamblers, practical jokers, renegades and romantics--and a woman coming to terms with the conflict she feels between being an instrument of God and her desire to be live an ordinary life. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: The continuation, to the end, of the life of Teresita Urrea, the author's great aunt, a healer hailed as a saint.

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