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 grandfather--a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected--Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.
Told with raw power and searing bluntness, and filled with important themes as immediate as today's headlines, Names on a Map is arguably the most important work to date of a major American literary artist.
In Saenz's lyrical sixth novel, Octavio Espejo leads an ordinary life in multiethnic 1967 El Paso: he sells insurance and is raising three children with his wife, Lourdes. Octavio was brought to the U.S. from revolutionary Mexico as a child and talks about the family's roots across the border, but on the whole the family has silently Americanized. The Vietnam War and the counterculture, however, begin to change how his children conceive of themselves and their lives-teenaged twins Gustavo and Xochil in particular. Gus must make choices about facing the draft; Xochil, a rape victim when she was 12, attempts to reconcile the era's passions with internal bitterness. Saenz shifts perspectives fluidly among the family, relatives and friends. The climax is given away early, keeping the focus on the manner in which the characters come to know themselves-or fail to. The result is a beautiful mosaic of the borderlands as women's liberation and the Chicano movement gain traction. (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 04, 2008
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