Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Names on a Map: A Novel” as Want to Read:
Names on a Map: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Names on a Map: A Novel

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  220 Ratings  ·  46 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
ebook, 448 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Names on a Map, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Names on a Map

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Maryam
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Names on a Map, by Benjamin Sáenz, is a book that uses the countries Mexico, America, and Vietnam and the war to explore family relationships. The novel is centred around the Espejo family in El Paso, Texas in 1967. It is told from the changing and contrasting viewpoints of all the characters. Early on in the book, there's a line that describes humans beings as our own separate countries, with our own languages, and how we spend our entire lives trying to translate each other. Sáenz use of metap ...more
Ryan Mishap
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lourdes
...more
Jules
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dorinda
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Hazel
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Philip
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Marjanne
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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.
Carol
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Madison Public Library Staff Pick
Absolutely loved this book. Loved the perspective of each family member. Loved how the author developed relationships between the generations and the teenage peers. One of my all time favorite books!
Desi
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Vamos a Leer
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
he 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 grandfather—a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected—Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have ...more
Marian
I don't know if I can articulate why this book is so special to me.

Part of it is the fluidity and beauty of the writing. I think there is something to Spanish-speaking writers that lends itself to poetry. But it is beyond that. This books lyricism felt personal, like I cared beyond the eyes of a critic and just felt the words.

Part of the reason I love this book is because of who the three siblings --- Gustavo, Xochil and Charlie --- are, individually and to each other. It is maybe too impossib
...more
Alyssa Garcia
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Showme
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best part of Names on a Map is the sense of place - El Paso - that Dr. Sáenz creates. I also admire the depths to which he gets into both his male and female characters. I was especially fond of Xochil and Charlie.

I did get a little lost in the narratives of some of the secondary characters, specifically those two souls serving in Viet Nam, and felt a little impatient at the slowness of the pace about midway in the book.

But overall, a satisfying immersion into a place, a family, and a time
...more
Stephanie
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a slow, poetic book that searches for meaning in war and identity in one's gender, one's family, and one's country. It's about a Mexican American family during the Vietnam War and the individual struggles put on them by this war that they are largely disconnected from in different ways. It's an extremely introspective book - the entire 400+ pages takes place over only a few days. It's a different kind of war novel, focusing more on inner battles than the outer. It says a lot about the Vi ...more
Donna
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good. Interesting to remember the Vietnam war and all the divisions of people during that time, in this time of the election with Clinton and Trump. though the deep divisions were there, the division now feels a bit different.
Lisa
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A story of the choices we have to make when the land we live in asks too much from us.
Melissa
May 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Alicia
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jurri Saddler
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Tracy
Aug 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
...more
Bianca Vega
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Teresa
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jennifer
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dee wise
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.
Kim
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kate
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.)
Joanne7758
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Raul
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.
Margaret
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
  • An Imperfect Lens
  • Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush
  • The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir
  • Wild Steps of Heaven
  • Prairie Nocturne
  • Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
  • The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters
  • The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay
  • Wandering Star
  • Monkey Bridge
  • My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo
  • The Shanghai Tunnel
  • Requiem
  • The Flowers
  • Burrows
  • Prietita and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y la llorona
  • The Ancient Ship
4841310
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
...more
More about Benjamin Alire Sáenz...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“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.” 13 likes
More quotes…