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Names on a Map

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  173 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfat ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2008)
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Mar 24, 2015 Jules rated it really liked it
There's a line early on in the book that describes human beings as our own separate countries, with our own languages, and how we spend our lives trying to translate each other. Saenz uses the countries of Mexico, America, and Vietnam as a framework to explore family relationships in this book, namely the Espejo family, exiles of the Mexican revolutionary war, who find themselves caught in the shadow of the Vietnam war as America's youth are drafted to fight. Saenz's prose is uncomplicated, dire ...more
Ryan Mishap
Aug 02, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Early in, I read this exchange between the dying grandmother, Rosario, and the youngest child, Charlie:

"No, amor, it's not fair. All countries are cruel. You must always remember that."
He thought about his globe and all his maps. "Isn't there any place we can go?"
"Someday we will do away with countries. We'll be better off without them, amor."

I knew I was in a good book.

September, 1967, and the Espejo family of El Paso, TX is waiting; for Rosario to pass on only one thing among many.
Mar 30, 2012 Dorinda rated it it was amazing
This book took me longer than usual to read because it requires reflection and appreciation for the language. Saenz' skill as a poet makes it that much better a read. Written in 2008 and set in 1967 it is a consideration of war both now and then. He recreates the pain of 1967 and Viet Nam and confronting the few choices in regard to fighting so clearly that it put me right back there. That recreation of that time was part of the reason for slow going through painful memories. Some of my question ...more
Sep 26, 2013 Hazel rated it it was amazing
I cannot say enough times how much I love this author. He is now 3 for 3 for the books I have read of his. Each one is in a different style with a completely different storyline, the only link being they are all set in El Paso, Texas and involve Hispanic families.

The character development in this novel was as superb as ever from this author and, again, I could relate very closely to characters that had absolutely nothing in common with me or my life, ever!

He takes a tragic situation but does not
Feb 15, 2015 Philip rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, owned
I feel very fortunate that in my life I get to meet writers whose work I admire, enjoy, and get a pleasure from considering how they do what they do. I am also more than fortunate when I get to work with them, get to know them, get to talk to them about how they do what they do, and sometimes even be able to discuss what they think of what I am doing.

It's not a critical part of immersing myself in their work, but when someone like Benjamin, with his voice, and his tenderness, become resonate wit
Mar 20, 2008 Marjanne rated it it was ok
This book was not what I was expecting. I though the author would write more about the effects of the son choosing to dodge the draft of Vietnam. However, it was more about family relationships. How personalities conflict and how the past can create walls. The novel is actually a lead up until the son leaves and very little of the after-affects.
I did not think that the soldier 'voices' contributed much to the story other to reinforce the negativity of the war. The author used the 'F' word quite
Marnie Morales
Not terrible, but terribly depressing. EVERY character in the book is depressed, except one, and you just get the feeling he might not be so bright. I might go back to it to skim...just to see what happens. Almost 200 pages in and the big thing that's supposed to be so disastrous hasn't happened, yet.
Jurri Saddler
Mar 25, 2015 Jurri Saddler rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of Benjamin Alire Saenz I read that didn't fall under the young-adult literature category. It was my hope to read books outside of my comfort zone. I am a young-adult lit junkie and I thought I would test the waters with a writer I greatly admire. I am glad I did.

Saenz yet again delivers a book that genuinely moves the reader. The deliverance of some of the lines and images throughout the book caused me to physically ache. It such a moving a novel about the complexity that
Apr 14, 2011 Desi rated it it was ok
Shelves: 50-in-2011
This book started out really slow for me and although I did get a little more into it by the end of the book I couldn't get past the beginning or the use of the f word in just about every paragraph.
Bianca Vega
Jan 07, 2015 Bianca Vega rated it really liked it
Wow. I had a hard time at the beginning trying to ascertain the plot line of this, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This novel forces you to confront the notion of war and its effect on all types of people. In particular, this novel looks at how the Vietnam War affected a Mexican family in El Paso Texas who had been driven out of Mexico due to the Mexican Revolution. Although the novel focuses on one particular young man's decision, it also briefly looks at other decisions and choices ma ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: young adults wanting to understand new U.S. citizens feelings about Vietnam
Recommended to Melissa by: review
I actually didn't finish this book. I used to feel compelled to always finish any book that I started, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that life is too short and there's too many great books out there to waste your time on the mediocre ones. The characters were cliched, and the publisher's description doesn't really match the book. At least not as of 50% into it. Maybe later the author came up with some surprises, but after reading my fellow goodreaders' reviews, I don't think so. I thin ...more
Dec 16, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Names is the story of one week in 1967 that brings momentous change to the Espejo family. When a draft notice is delivered to the oldest son, Gustavo, he is forced to chose between disappointing his father and following his conscience. Mirroring the turmoil that infects El Paso and the nation, each family member's reaction to this event shapes the story of their lives. The alternating viewpoints give you a complete picture of each family member and the why the decision each makes has such an im ...more
Donald A. Johansen
Why we can't forget.

This is a hauntingly beautiful story. The terrible age of the Vietnamese War was hard to live and hard to remember, but this book shows that there are many sides to the trouble. There is no right or wrong only pain and death.
Aug 28, 2009 Tracy rated it it was amazing
This is a book for people who love good storytelling. Set in El Paso, TX & Vietnam in the late 60's, it mostly follows the impact the war has on the Espejo family. Each chapter focuses on a different character or set of characters.

You can tell this was written by someone who also writes poetry. Some chapters are only 2 pages long, packing their meaning into spare words.

The thing I loved most was how Saenz uses the 1st, 2nd & 3rd person, and it's never the same for any given character.
Andrea Kassar
I can't even rate this.
I won't.
I refuse.
I'm just going to try and live my life.
Just gonna try.
Dee wise
Apr 09, 2014 Dee wise rated it liked it
I love the writing of this author. I heard him speak recently and I think he is amazing. I wasn't crazy about this book. I liked the characters and wanted to know more about Gus' s decision to avoid the draft and the consequences. I didn't really like the little added diatribes from the unknown soldiers. Didn't add anything for me to the story. It was an interesting story about this family though.
Gabriel Oak
The last hundred pages really picked up for me, but generally I like my Vietnam War novels to show a little more moral complexity.
May 19, 2011 Teresa rated it it was amazing
I cannot stress how much of a great writer Benjamin is! I have fallen in love with his writing style.

Names on a Map was the first book I ever read written by him. I will admit, the various "points of view" are a little hard to keep track of, mainly because there are so many (I had to go back a few times to get m characters straight) but overall I believe it was beautifully written. And while I may always want a happy ending in my fictional books (because lets face it, reality sucks) I completely
This is a wonderful, lyrically written book that will probably break your heart, then rip it out and stomp on it for good measure. I loved it despite it depressing the hell out of me.

(That said, do be advised that the publisher's blurb on the back doesn't exactly match the novel's plot. I think the actual plot is better. I suspect whichever editor was writing the back flap copy was really struggling to come up with an appropriate summary. Fair enough. It's that kind of book.)
Jul 31, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book is about one day in 1967, when a young chicano in El Paso receives his draft notice. The story is told from the point of view of members of his family, his friends, and himself. Each chapter is written in one of their voices. Each voice gives a different take on being Mexican-American, the Vietnam war, and the relationships between the characters. I am curious if people who did not live during the Vietnam war years would like the book as much as I did.
Mar 04, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book I randomly picked up at the library one day. Interesting perspective -- multiple storytellers whose voices overlap and create layers of meaning. I haven't read any fiction that dealt with this topic from this angle -- the build up of BEFORE Vietnam for someone who will very likely be drafted. Effects on family and community. Philosophical differences within a household. I am now interested to look into this author's others works.
Sep 16, 2014 Alessandra rated it really liked it
Joanne7758 Hoffman
Dec 08, 2013 Joanne7758 Hoffman rated it it was amazing
Incredibly beautifully written book about how the Vietnam war affected a family and a community. Each character in the family becomes like a close friend you know them so well. Sometimes you want them to be someone else, but Mr. Saenz keeps them true to themselves. In real life, I think we only know things this deep about ourselves until many years later. The family dynamics are so painfully real as to be almost unbearable at times.
Oct 05, 2010 Fabian rated it it was ok
For a novel about Vietnam we see no guts, glory. What we have here is a cast of characters all of which share the same exact voice. While the father is adamant about his son going to Vietnam, the mother and siblings all seem to be made of the same clay, rebelling against it... something of an impossibility in an authentic family. Maybe I'll like his other books a bit more, though his themes always seem the same.
Sep 21, 2008 Raul added it
Great story and read. I enjoyed Saenz other novel Carry Me Like Water. Families need to keep in touch regardless of the feelings. We are not born to read anyones minds but our own. Speak up, state what you think or feel; otherwise we lose ourselves to the silence and never understand the dynamics of what it takes to be a family.
Jul 28, 2010 Mariah rated it liked it
This novel about a Mexican family in the US during the Vietnam war made some good points, but really seemed to drag on until it finally reached the climax that was fairly obvious since the first few pages. I liked the family/sibling bonds and complex relationships that were described, though.
May 30, 2009 Mackenzie rated it really liked it
Excellent perspectives on life during the Vietnam War. Every kind of person is represented in the family itself, which is frustrating at times because I don't necessarily believe that relationships can be "unfixable". Still, the story moved quickly and the chapters really flew by.
Mar 03, 2009 Lesley rated it it was amazing
This author is an amazing contemporary writer. He puts words together like no other author I've read. This book was very thought provoking and I recommend it to any mother who has a son. It gave me a completely different perspective of war and those that are sent to fight in them.
Nov 14, 2013 Andrea rated it liked it
This book was nicely written, but where it left off was where I had expected the story to actually start. I was a little disappointed. It could also be a little confusing at times when it switched between characters.
Jun 14, 2008 Margaret rated it really liked it
This book takes place in 1967 in the Southwest. It chronicles a Mexican-American family's experience with the Vietnam war - each chapter is written "by" a member of the family. It is a quick and compelling read.
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Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children's books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humaniti
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“Daughters. They were sometimes as familiar and intimate as honeysuckles in bloom, but mostly daughters were mysteries. They lived in rooms you had long since abandoned and could not, did not, ever want to reenter.” 11 likes
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