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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A magical realist road trip
If all of literature was a fruit salad, "Esperanza's Box of Saints" would be the mango. Tasty, succulent and addictive, Maria Amparo Escandon's novel also happens to be, like its fruity counterpart, extremely good for your health. One could even say it's like a vitamin shot to the soul.
The Esperanza of the title is Esperanza Diaz, an irresistable,...
Published on 15 Oct. 2000

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1.0 out of 5 stars I didn't bother to finish the book ...
After the first several pages, I wondered if I could ever get into the book. I did after reading several more pages; meanwhile, thinking to myself, "the author's goal in writing this book is to make sure she gets a bestseller." In other words, she is writing to please the "modern" reader. After one time too many of reading the "f"...
Published on 25 Mar. 1999


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A magical realist road trip, 15 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Esperanza's Box of Saints (Paperback)
If all of literature was a fruit salad, "Esperanza's Box of Saints" would be the mango. Tasty, succulent and addictive, Maria Amparo Escandon's novel also happens to be, like its fruity counterpart, extremely good for your health. One could even say it's like a vitamin shot to the soul.
The Esperanza of the title is Esperanza Diaz, an irresistable, irrepressible heroine whose quirky outlook on life and fearless willingness to follow her heart can only lead to one thing: adventure. And I do mean adventure! But believe me, this ain't the Boys' Own variety. Tempered with melodrama and salacious gossip, hilarity and mystical coincidence, Esperanza's escapades are more like the Mexican telenovelas (soap operas) to which she so often alludes. Indeed, in this respect, "Esperanza's Box of Saints" brings to mind Isabel Allende's "Eva Luna", another Latin American novel with a soap operatic bent.
Although Escandon's book doesn't reach the heights of Allende's, it sure makes for a rollicking read. One cannot help but be charmed by Esperanza and the outrageously implausible chain of events she sets off whilst baking chicken one fateful evening... Starting with the apparition of San Judas Tadeo, patron saint of desperate cases, which materialises in the grime of her oven window to inform her that her recently deceased daughter Blanca (victim of a botched tonsillectomy) may actually still be alive. Convinced that her little darling must have been kidnapped and sold into a child prostitution racket, Esperanza immediately sets out to rescue Blanca by whatever means possible. And if that involves working 'undercover' in the sex industry, fighting off the amorous advances of innumerable aspiring romeos and a spot of hocus-pocus, then so be it!
From her comfortably sheltered existence as a modest and god-fearing widow in a tiny Mexican village, Esperanza soon finds her horizons expanding to take in the brothels, bordellos and peep-shows of Tijuana and L.A, as well an endearing cast of prostitutes, pimps, perverts and wrestlers. In the meantime, her devout religious faith assumes a more personal, independent dimension. Confident where she was once naive, resourceful where she was once passive, Esperanza's quest for her missing daughter has become a journey of self-discovery along the way, transforming her into a new woman.
"Esperanza's Box of Saints" is a magical realist road trip, and an absolute blast to read. Despite the plot's almost fairytale-like quality, which can occasionally seem a bit simplistic, the author's writing style is exuberant and poetic. Her playful use of point-of-view, switching between traditional third-person narrative, various first-person perspectives, letters and diary entries, is particularly effective. Notable also is the overwhelmingly optimistic tone of the novel. It made me smile. It gave me hope. Why, for awhile there, it even had me believing in a rosy, romantic future where things do work out for the best, and dreams can come true...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best this year!, 1 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
I had heard about this book since it came out and finally I read it this weekend. No wonder it has gotten so much attention from the media. No wonder they did a movie (which I can't wait to see.) It's one of the best Latin American novels by and about women I've ever read. "Esperanza's Box of Saints" is fun, entertaining, and it can be read at several levels. It's a must read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A seductive, off-beat tale of searching and yearning, 10 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
Esperanza's Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon is a seductive tale of searching and yearning that touches on themes as old as the human heart. Esperanza (Hope) Diaz is a young, widowed mother who, armed with little else other than her beauty, her faith, her saints and their apparitions, sets out to search for her daughter, Blanca (Purity). Esperanza's search takes her on a Demeter's descent into the underworld landscape of the brothels and sex palaces of Tijuana and Los Angeles.
This novel is also the tale of the wandering heart, Esperanza, and the soul at rest, her friend Soledad (Solitude, Contemplation). Esperanza leaves peaceful, rural Tlacotaplan to find her daughter and ultimately finds that which she has been missing. Her companera Soledad achieves the same by remaining behind. Esperanza's Box of Saints is filled with the wonderful, real magic of life -- saints' images appearing in oven door grime and rust stains -- as well as the questions of life -- what is love? Loss? Contrition? Absolution? Redemption?
Esperanza's quest is urgent and Odyssean in scope. But as she crosses fronteras into worlds increasingly bizarre and exotic, her situations become at times picaresque, and in her adjustments and solutions, Esperanza displays the resourcefulness of a modern day Lazarillo de Tormes.
Complementing the story is Escandon's skillful telling of the tale. Her language is both poetic and deceptively simple. It is a delight to see that Escandon does not fall into "la girlfriendisma" - the portraying of ethnic men as inherently evil or loutish victimizers. Finally, as a Los Angeleno, I delighted in Escandon's "tours" of Pico-Union and downtown Broadway, areas within driving distance of the Hollywood sign and fashionable Rodeo Drive, but as far removed as Esperanza's native Tlacotaplan. Here, Escandon touches on my recurring question of what it means to live in the spiritual capital of California, a state literally divided between two nations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A real magical impresion in our souls!, 11 May 1999
By A Customer
Cuando vine a los Estados Unidos, me quede maravillado por el contraste y la gran explosion de vida... bastaba mirar por la ventana para ver porque la atraccion y facinacion hacia este Pais, pero al mismo tiempo el dolor el profundo dolor de un pueblo, de la misma humanidad que grita ser escuchada en persona en forma singular. Caminando por la calle me parecia imposible pensar que cada persona, aun desconocida, esconde detras una unica e irrepetible historia. Como hispano, me descubri rico de una propia cultura, parte del entero cuerpo de la humanidad desplegado en el tiempo. La historia de esperanza no es la historia de una sola mujer es la historia de un pueblo de una raza que lucha por sobrevivir, por no perder su inocensia, por ser autentico, por ver mas alla de los echos concretos y seguir creyendo en el bien, en la misma humanidad que nace y renace cada dia. America es magica, no por sus avances ni tecnologia, sino por su constante ejemplo de unidad en la diversidad, asui como cada uno de nosotros somos uno pero muchos al mismo tiempo. Leer este libro, es leer entre las lineas de la historia de un pueblo y creer en el futuro!
Alguien dijo que nuestra vida es como un bello telar, pero rara veces lo vemos por el lado correcto, aveces nos quedamos atrapados en los nudos y remiendos del otro lado, pero ese no es lo real, ese bello tejido compuesto por cada instante de nuestra vida lo entenderemos completamente hasta el final, de la ultima puntada, sin embargo aveces algunos libros nos dejan entrever la belleza, y Maria Escandon en este libro lo logra.
Thanks, thanks for let me see more about me and my people!
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4.0 out of 5 stars I can hardly wait for the movie!!!, 24 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
As I read this book, I found myself deliberately taking my time to savor the essence of Esperanza. Maria Amparo Escandon creates some entertaining characters and rich dialogue to complement the sensual, eccentric Esperanza. Not since John Nichols' Milagro Beanfield War and The Magic Journey have I enjoyed such a literary adventure that celebrates the Latino/Latina culture.
Esperanza's Box of Saints transports you to a realm where a fine line seperates passion and lunacy. There are times when you will think lunacy has prevailed over Esperanza. But just like real life, these two entities exist as dance partners in some whimsical, eternal fandango.
Read this book so you can accompany Esperanza on her quest guided by San Judas Tadeo and other saintly colleagues. Delight in her faith, convictions, and superstitions; mourn for her tragic loss and struggles. And in the end, cheer for Esperanza's deliverance at the hands of a mystical angel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped?, 7 July 1999
By A Customer
I did enjoy reading this book--it is a fast-paced and fun narrative that manages to be sexy while also probing (albeit not too deeply) the religious beliefs of the main character. Still, I wonder about a book that obviously was intended to be turned into a movie, contains questions for a reading group at the end, and has a web site solely devoted to selling the book and its movie version. I'd rather the hype follow the book (ala Cold Mountain, whether you liked it or not) than precede it, like this one. It seems like they are trying to make this into another "Like Water for Chocolate," but for me at least, there just isn't enough substance. Overall, this book has the feel of a movie, which is something I don't necessarily like in the novels I read. For example, I felt that Esperanza's falling in love with Angel at the end was more of a Hollywood-esqu plot resolution than a believable development in the story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Magical Metamorphosis in a Box, 24 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
A friend of mine recently loaned me a book written by an author previously unknown to me. The book? "Esperanza's Box of Saints" and the author, Maria Amparo Escandon. I am now in love. A poignant novel about a mother's search for her daughter, "Esperanza's Box of Saints" is an eloquent, vivid account not only of Esperanza's search, but also of her path to self-discovery. I was completely enthralled by Escandon's simple yet clear descriptions, her passionate conveyance of the desperate measures parents will undertake to save their children, and most of all, by the power and stunning beauty of her tale. There was a glittering, brutal magic to this story that is rarely found in today's literary scene. I highly recommend locking yourself away from the world and curling up for several hours with the intensity and beauty that is "Esperanza's Box of Saints."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Imagination, Magic and True Faith, 24 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
Escandon captures the essence of Mexican faith: docile rebellion, pious iconoclasm, contradiction that makes sense. The people that intellectuals laugh at, and that organized religion chides---crazy, illogical, relgious fanatics and fools--- are often the wise among us. Escandon's colorful writing, and complicated, crazy plot via Esperanza's chase---bring the reader face to face with the underbelly of reality. Esperanza's faith in her Saint...perhaps is a mask for the power she herself contains but does not yet own. Her love for her daughter is so strong as to conquer all in her path. She seeks and she finds.....she knocks, and the door is opened to her. Anyone who thinks this book is overkill and sterotype, underappreciates the Mexican love of flamboyant pageantry, color and contradiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Imagination, Magic and True Faith, 24 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
Escandon captures the essence of Mexican faith: docile rebellion, pious iconoclasm, contradiction that makes sense. The people that intellectuals laugh at, and that organized religion chides---crazy, illogical, relgious fanatics and fools--- are often the wise among us. Escandon's colorful writing, and complicated, crazy plot via Esperanza's chase---bring the reader face to face with the underbelly of reality. Esperanza's faith in her Saint...perhaps is a mask for the power she herself contains but does not yet own. Her love for her daughter is so strong as to conquer all in her path. She seeks and she finds.....she knocks, and the door is opened to her. Anyone who thinks this book is overkill and sterotype, underappreciates the Mexican love of flamboyant pageantry, color and contradiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The only part I didn't like about the book was that it ended, 23 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
Escandon manages to weave a delightfully spiritual, magical and sensual tale in this first novel of hers. Her rich descriptions of both the characters and their environments enable the reader to easily picture their worlds. More importantly, however, the reader is easily and instantly drawn into Esperanza's inner turmoil as she grapples with a budding sensuality that contradicts her conservative Mexican upbringing. The novel deals with these issues in a light-hearted manner, and while many women will undoubtedly identify with Esperanza, they will also be amused by some of the outrageous decisions she makes. The story and the writing style combine many characteristics seen in Isabel Allende, Alice Hoffman, Julia Alvarez - I eagerly await more of Escandon's novels.
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Esperanza's Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon (Paperback - 23 Jun. 2000)
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