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Posted December 9, 2008
This is a strong timely historical character driven tale
In 1967 El Paso, insurance salesman Octavio Espejo is happily married to Lourdes as they raise three children together. However, the blight in his mind to his American lifestyle is his Mexican roots Octavio has not been back or seen his family ever since he was ferried across the Rio Grande as a child.--------- However, his children begin to reconsider their national identity. Teenager Gustavo has received the certified ¿Greetings¿ letter directing him to report to basic training which in the Chicano border communities means tours of Viet Nam. He does not want to go as he is becoming aware of freedom fighting in America not Southeast Asia. His twin sister Xochil still struggles to overcome her anger and acrimony over being raped when she was twelve years old. Both wonder if America is where they belong.----------- This is a strong timely historical character driven thriller as Benjamin Alire Saenz enables the reader to look deep into the Espejo family whose members each struggle differently with assimilation at a time of women¿s liberation, civil rights especially the growing Chicano awareness, and cutting across all is Nam. NAMES ON A MAP is insightful as the children reconsider and resist Americanization understanding the nightmare while their parents have doubts but embrace the dream.------- Harriet Klausner
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Posted February 5, 2008
An Emotional Journey to Freedom
While America¿s ¿Greatest Generation¿ had World War II and today¿s generation has the ongoing Gulf War, a generation that lived through the Sixties had Vietnam, a military conflict that indisputably defined an era and carved a permanent wound into the nation¿s psyche.----- Award-winning author and poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz has boldly sidestepped contemporary history and set his sights on revisiting our nation¿s turbulent past to tenderly tell the story of an immigrant family trying to adapt to its adopted land while coming to terms with the true cost of freedom in America.----- Set in 1967, Sáenz¿s ¿Names on a Map¿ follows the Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, during a momentous week in September when a draft notice forces them to drop the veil of secrecy that cloaks their fears and causes them to confront their internal conflicts etched by customs accepted in Mexico, but found to be out of date north of the Rio Grande.----- Octavio Espejo is the son of a wealthy family that was run out of Mexico during a bloody revolution when he was a child. Now, as patriarch of a close-knit family in the United States, he tries to rule the clan with an iron hand only to find that strict adherence to house rules causes irreparable rifts in personal relationships.----- Gustavo, Octavio¿s son, is the recipient of the draft notice that sets into motion the novel¿s overarching theme of loyalty to family, country and most importantly, one¿s self. He broods over the price America extracts from its populace in order to sustain peace on the home front and the realization that dodging the draft may tarnish the family¿s standing in the community more than his own reputation.----- Sáenz tells his story through different points of views with voices that are unique, yet also reminiscent of the nation¿s conscience at the height of the Vietnam War.----- Among the characters that emerge from the novel to leave a lasting impression is Abe, a young Marine fighting in Da Nang. He doesn¿t want to think of home, yet finds that home is all he can think about¿especially when it comes to his unrequited love, Xochil.----- Xochil is Gustavo¿s twin sister, who is fighting her own personal battles with society. She learned early on in life that wars come in many forms and that no matter where the battlefield lies, a thousand other wars are being fought at the same time by the same participants, with no two skirmishes being exactly alike.----- Finally there¿s Lourdes, the matriarch who is the glue that keeps the family together. By the novel¿s end, she comes to terms with what she¿s known all along: sometimes you have to give up the things you hold dear in order to hold on to them a little while longer.----- ¿Names on a Map¿ is an emotional journey down memory lane that reminds its readers that war indiscriminately affects everyone, extolling a price paid for in flesh, blood, and the loss of innocence in people of all ages.
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Posted July 9, 2011
Intense plot and memorable people ...
...but the ending???
"names" needs a sequel or some expanded insights into why the Espejo Family could not simply eventually spend vacations together in Mexico...or meet at the border in Juarez after Gustavo cut his hair and grew a beard...why did the kids never see each other again - or did they - and they just never kissed or hugged...?
Did Octavio find his son?
More, please - I love these people.
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Posted May 31, 2011