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Hummingbird House
     

Hummingbird House

3.5 7
by Patricia Henley
 

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When Kate Banner, an American midwife in Nicaragua, loses another patient — a young Nicaraguan woman who had given birth only the night before on the bottom of a swamped wooden boat – she knows it is time to go home. Because to care for the children of war, you have to cut off pieces of your heart. But traveling home leads her to Guatemala, where even

Overview

When Kate Banner, an American midwife in Nicaragua, loses another patient — a young Nicaraguan woman who had given birth only the night before on the bottom of a swamped wooden boat – she knows it is time to go home. Because to care for the children of war, you have to cut off pieces of your heart. But traveling home leads her to Guatemala, where even children sometimes disappear. Patricia Henley’s 'Hummingbird House' is a devastatingly powerful and emotionally trustworthy story of a human heart unbinding itself in the most unjust of worlds.

Editorial Reviews

Hungry Mind Review
[an] accomplished first novel....Henley guides her readers through this tale one graceful and slicing sentence at a time, calling up both despair and wonder, outrage, and hope.
...[A] moody, intense, passionate first novel, written...in a near-staccato, stream-of-consciousness style that generates great immediacy...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To be strong enough for the path she's chosen, 42-year-old American midwife Kate Banner, the protagonist of this moving novel, must "cut off pieces of her heart." Her three-week visit to Mexico during the 1980s becomes an eight-year Central American sojourn once she witnesses the poverty and war-torn devastation of the people she encounters and decides to help. She delivers babies and administers basic medicine at an makeshift clinic, and travels, passionately but somewhat aimlessly, from Mexico to Nicaragua to Guatemala. She moves through the countrysides both with and without her compadres, a group of mostly North American activists, including the lover who soon leaves her and a priest whose love for Kate makes him question his vows. After experiencing many tragic losses, Kate occasionally wrestles with the notion of returning home to Indiana, but her heart (however assaulted) lies with the native peoples and their struggles. Her sacrifices achieve meaning when a collectively imagined school/clinic for destitute Guatemalan children becomes a very real possibility. And when Hummingbird House is established, Kate is satisfied she has helped make one lasting contribution to a community despite all she has lost, including, she laments, her youth. This first novel by short story writer (The Secret of Cartwheels) and poet (Back Roads) Henley is darkly atmospheric, with fluent dialogue and an assured prose style. Numerous subplots, though clearly heartfelt and informative, sometimes detract from Kate's centrality. The prismatic trajectory of the tale may be deliberate, for the author's message is double-edged: that trying for a better world is necessary, demanding work, but no one can save herself through saving the world. Kate's tale rings true in her realistic conclusion that gross injustice calls for more than merely sorrow, but also rage, sacrifice and the ability to simultaneously love and lose. FYI: A portion of the author's royalties will be donated in support of human rights worldwide.
Kirkus Reviews
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 María, 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 Vidalúz, 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, María 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781849820851
Publisher:
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
05/16/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
547,836
File size:
400 KB

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Hummingbird House 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This finely-crafted first novel absorbed me from the first page to the last. I was left with images, questions, and a stronger appreciation for the need for humans of courage to work for justice where there is none. The author, often in poetic language, conveyed the abilities of people to love and give, and she contrasted this with our abilities to do evil to each other. The relationships between kindness and justice and thoughtlessness and injustice were ever-present in this novel. The characters were well-developed, their relationships were authentic, and the descriptions of Central America were beautifully done. I usually dispose of books once they are read. Not this one! It will stay on my bookshelf along side THE GRAPES OF WRATH, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY, THE COLOR PURPLE, and other masterpieces that focus on the travesties that come when justice is denied. I look forward to Patricia Henley's next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walks in on accident and sees Kellen crying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*they argue* *Kellen sighs* No Ysaki!! Im not ignor-- *Ysaki's face grows redder* Then why'd you block my fuc<_>king number Kellen!? You never fuc<_>king listen to me!!? *Kellen looks close to tear* Thats not true! I just blocked you becau--*Ysaki cuts him off* Im TIRED of excuses. Im leaving. Goodbye Kellen. *Kellen grabs his arm* no...im sorry..**Ysaki doesnt even look at him and he walks away slamming the door behind him* *Kellen sits on th bed and bursts into tears*
Guest More than 1 year ago
A disappointment. This novel hammers its political points home so relentlessly that the reader is numbed by the inevitable end. Is there no one in Central America who is not either a saint or on the take? The lead character is a nurse unable to diagnose her own major depression and who thus spends months being ineffective and limiting her own ability to help.