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Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
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Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  184 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Finalist for the National Book Award! In this beautifully wrought memoir, award-winning writer John Philip Santos weaves together dream fragments, family remembrances, and Chicano mythology, reaching back into time and place to blend the story of one Mexican family with the soul of an entire people. The story unfolds through a pageant of unforgettable family figures: from...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 398)
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Jessi
For the poetical language, I would give this history/genealogy/memoir four stars, save for the fact that I only enjoyed it in pieces. This story of a Tejano man's search for his family's story in Texas and Mexico felt piecemeal, which perhaps is his point, but I found it tedious. Yes, the very nature of stories that have been erased or rewritten is perpetual fragmentation, but I did want, in the end, a story. I was also distracted by the constant explanations that were meant for a monolingual En...more
Azra
I had never heard of John Phillip Santos before I picked up this book. It is the story of a family, interwoven within the greater stories and myths of Mexico. In the family, there are ghosts; Rosicrucians, mystics, rancheros, inventors and a mystery from 1939.

One visual that returns over and over in the book is of the Voladores. The Voladores are sacred dancers who climb a 120 foot pole. One dancer stays at the top and drums and blows on an eagle bone whistle while the others attach themselves...more
Keleigh
Feb 17, 2008 Keleigh rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: family historians, wannabe mexicans
Shelves: schooldaze

At some points, Santos’ memoir read like “a strange sanctuary devoted to the memory of an accidental death” (171). At others, I got the feeling of accompanying someone on an exhaustive quest, driven “by the Creator to walk twenty-four miles a day” (48). My favorite moments, however, were those in which I could simply bear witness, standing back in awe as Santos circled his family tree like a great Voladore spinning masterful revolutions that brought him closer and closer to the source.

I can’t sa...more
Gabriel Oak
Santos is clearly a gifted writer, but I wasn't a fan of the romanticized, mythic indigenous heritage, nor of the narrative's lack of historical consciousness. At times, Santos writes as if he's the first one to consider these ideas, when they're old hat in Chicano literature. As a family history, it's touching, but as a work of cultural history, it's not very impressive.
Kristy
The "wind of story" was also "a wind of forgetting," and as Santos probes his heritage, he comes to understand that "it is okay to move on and forget."

-an except from the blurb on this website

Well, crap that's what I did with this book. I really wanted to like this book. It was chosen for the One Book, One San Antonio citywide reading project. It was written by a native San Antone-ian and set in the city. This is the only reason it got a second star. Pity star...

No dice for me. Was not feeling i...more
carrie
Nov 28, 2007 carrie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in cultural studies
i suspect my rating of this book will improve as i keep reading. the writing can be transcendent, and the author's voice is strong and believable. how does culture shape us? what are the powers of collective memory? what happens when our history is no longer ours to tell? these are just a few of the questions the author tackles.

however -- so far, anyway -- the book is very light on plot, on story line. instead, we get many small character sketches and much philosophy -- all interesting and well-...more
Marilyn
Although I have no blood connection to the Mexicanos of Texas I was quickly drawn into this tale of conquest, betrayal and abandonment. It is a memoir, but it is also a poem and a song and a history. John Philip Santos brings to life the culture of his people in Mexico and in San Antonio with poignancy and longing...for the present as well as the past.
This was one of those book that I chose to read slowly and savor (no,I didn't really read it in one day!) In this country of immigrants, this coun...more
Megan
May 31, 2012 Megan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I had trouble getting into this book. Despite finding it interesting, I often found it a little difficult to keep up with because of its seemingly random organization. However, when I wasn't fretting about trying to remember certain things (since I read it for one of my classes and was scared about what might be on the test), I liked learning about Mr. Santos' family and its history. I had never read a book that had such close ties to my hometown, San Antonio, so I enjoyed that as well. Overall,...more
Wendy
I bought this (yes, bought - very unusual for me) because the cover said it was a National Book Award Finalist. It's a bit weird, bits of family history and imagination and history of Northern Mexico and Texas, and how to connect with the old identity but make a new identity. I liked the book overall, but it is difficult to describe or categorize. I finished it a couple weeks back and it already seems like a dream. The whole book is sort of like a dream actually.
Cindy Huyser
A very interesting memoir. One of the blurbs on the back of my copy likened it to "Dakota," and there is a ruminative quality here that is reminiscent of that book. I found it a little tough to navigate through all the characters at first, but that didn't deter me from finishing it. I particularly enjoyed the way Santos explores his heritage from the new world to the old, how he helps the reader understand the complex identity that arises in this experience.
Julia
I forced my way through this book. Although I enjoy spiritual travels and reflective thoughts, this book see-sawed through memories like a person grappling with family and culture. The story is too densely packed. The sentences seem to go on for days, trying to accomplish ties between generations and cultures. Some fellow readers identified with the setting of San Antonio, but few identified with the characters within.
Penny
My sister handed me this one-we were in a grocery store near the hospital where my husband had surgery and I had forgotten the books I wanted to bring. It is a curious memoir of a San Antonio man whose grandparents were from Mexico as he seeks to understand his Mexican (Indio and Spanish) and Texas family histories. It was a finalist for the National Book Award--very well written with a wonderfully expressive vocabulary.
Sharline
I've just started reading this, but I'm not as thrilled with it as I thought I would be. Lots of people told me this book was fantastic and it's won awards and was named Book of the Year by all these papers. Anyway, it's a bit slow and the voice is a bit pretentious, precious for me. Am I gaining insight to the Mexican American experience though? Yes. I'm hoping to really get into it as I go along.
Kristina
History is complicated- subjective and subject to loss at any time. Santos patches together his family tree in a story about the mortality of people and places. As a native San Antonian with grandparents who lived on Yellowstone, I really appreciate the detail of the old city; it added color to the black & white stories I was told as a little girl.
Lbrownblack
Jul 12, 2009 Lbrownblack is currently reading it
Shelves: unfinished, book-club
would it not be appropo to leave this one unfinished? Funny, only one of the 6 book club members had read it by book club, but, I don't think it could have really been discussed without Nancy's experiential knowledge, and she wasn't at book club, but, then, this one was really more just Heather's last meeting...
Allison C
Well-written and somewhat interesting, but not engrossing enough to make me want to read every night before I go to bed. It would have helped to have something of a plot to ground the memoir...to me it seemed more like a compilation of recollections that are somewhat esoteric.
Rita
I read about 1/3 of this book. I liked the subject matter: mexican family history from Mexico to Texas, but it jumped all over and I couldn't get interested in a thread to finish the book.
Janis Williams
I did enjoy this book, but also got a little bit tired of it after a while. I loved best his stories of his family in San Antonio and the vivid picture he created of their lives.
Carlos Cumpian
If you really want to understand the Tejano experience this is an essential book in the puzzle. Poetic excellent writing. I'll return to add much more soon I hope.
Judy King
Well written, but I've reinforced that Memoirs are not my bag...I prefer the information told more as a story. Glad I read it, won't read it again!!
Geraldine
I loved this book. Anyone from south Texas should read this one. I read this one during 2006.
Jolene
A very entertaining and intellectual exploration of Mexican culture and beautifully written.
Janet Meissner
I'm into family history but Santos' mystical search goes beyond my understanding.
Rob Renteria
SANDRA....this is a book i want u 2 read....so do it....peace


rob

atx
Erin
Apr 10, 2007 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: yo mamma
nice enough to finish reading but not a real page turner

Russell Gold
Read this several years ago, and it blew me away.
Maureen
Beautiful language, but slow...
Khareen
Dec 05, 2009 Khareen marked it as to-read
will read this. :)
Emin  Yigit Koyuncuoglu
Emin Yigit Koyuncuoglu marked it as to-read
Oct 22, 2014
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