This wonderful novel captures a remote time and place (northern Mexico in the late 1800s) teeming with fascinating characters who live large while debating politics, spirituality, community and faith. There is an aristocratic Don and his engineer companion; his mistress, his wife and illegitimate children; faithful retainers; rebellious natives; a dastardly priest; and soldiers who are evil, benevolent or both. Two of these vivid characters can fly and see visions; one rises from the dead. Savvy readers will discern echoes of Garbiel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism and poetry, but the back story of this novel of Teresita Urrea, the saint of Cabora, is at least as interesting as the novel itself.
Author Luis Urrea had often heard stories of his ancestor Teresita Urrea, who both performed miracles and helped ignite the Mexican revolution. His 20-year quest to learn about her took him to archives, sites and, ultimately, to relatives in Mexico who helped him understand the ways of curanderas, saints and shamans. Urrea recreates Teresita and her world with glowing prose and sparkling dialogue; her experiences from the sublime to the terrifying are at the heart of the intersection of the political and spiritual on the eve of the Mexican revolution.