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ESPERANZA'S BOX OF SAINTS: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, January 14, 1999


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner's; First Edition edition (January 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615599991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615599998
  • ASIN: B000H2M5XQ
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,442,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Where Latin American fiction is concerned, miracles happen every day. Indeed, upon opening a novel written by a Mexican, Chilean, Colombian, or Cuban author, one is slightly disappointed if at least three impossible things don't happen before the opening chapter is over. María Amparo Escandón's first novel fulfills this expectation on its first page when Esperanza Díaz tells her parish priest that San Judas Tadeo appeared to her in her oven window:
He floated toward me, like a piñata dangling from a rope. The grease drippings shone like amber. He looked directly into my eyes. He was so beautiful. His hair was blond and a little curly. He had a beard, just like Jesus Christ. He said, "Your daughter is not dead."
This is a miracle indeed, since Esperanza, a young widow, has recently lost her 12-year-old daughter during a routine tonsillectomy. But when the saint appears to her with his glad tidings, the bereaved mother begins to wonder if her daughter might not have been spirited away by unscrupulous doctors and sold into white slavery. Determined to reclaim her child, Esperanza hits the road, embarking on a picaresque journey that will take her from her little Mexican town to the brothels of Tijuana and eventually to Los Angeles. Along the way she meets a variety of colorful characters including a professional wrestler who just may be the man to change our heroine's mind about never marrying again.

If at times Escandón's blithe tale seems tailor-made for movies, that's because it is. In addition to writing both English and Spanish versions of the novel, she has also authored the screenplay for Esperanza's film debut. In the case of Esperanza's Box of Saints, the cinematic touches nicely complement the book's larger-than-life characters, from best friend and fellow-widow Soledad, or poor Father Salvador, the hapless recipient of Esperanza's occasionally X-rated confessions, to Angel, the keeper of her heart. All in all, this is a book guaranteed to charm and amuse. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mexican-American author Escandon offers an engaging, simply written novel that traces a woman's search for her beloved 12-year-old daughter. The tale begins with a miracle: on the day of her daughter's funeral, grief-stricken Esperanza Diaz is preparing pollo al chipotle for the funeral guests when San Judas Tadeo, the saint of desperate cases, appears in her grimy oven window "like a pi?ata dangling from a rope" to tell her that Blanca, who supposedly succumbed to an infection in the hospital after a tonsillectomy, is not dead. Esperanza immediately sets out on a dangerous, sometimes hilarious search for her lost child, leading the reader into a vibrant fictional realm. Esperanza's world is one in which a woman's skin tastes like tamarind candy, in which the statue of a saint glows and smells like lilacs and in which Esperanza's religious devotion has an aphrodisiac effect on the men she encounters. Despite the protests of her old friend Soledad and the concerns of her priest, who is disturbed by his intense attraction to her, Esperanza becomes convinced that Blanca was kidnapped by a doctor at the hospital and was forced into child prostitution. Esperanza's search takes her from a local brothel to Tijuana and then to Los Angeles; along the way, she encounters such zany characters as the eccentric, elderly Dona Trini, owner of a high-class brothel and keeper of a peculiar secret; the rich, lonely American Mr. Haynes, who pays Esperanza for nights of lullabies and conversation; Vicenza, a tough-talking businesswoman and die-hard wrestling fan; and, finally, the very human El Angel Justiciero, a professional wrestler with wings and a mask, who lands at Esperanza's feet and changes her life. Recounted alternately in first and third person, through her confessions, Blanca's diary and the prayers of the priest, Esperanza's charming journey, with its surprising conclusion, leads her out of grief into self-knowledge and reveals that the path of faith is often anything but straight and narrow. (Jan.) FYI: The novel is based on Escandon's Spanish-language screenplay, which has been bought by John Sayles.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Don't miss out on the best book I have read in a long time!
Linda Burke
Having just finished reading the book I am left with a feeling of well being.
"berenjena"
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a chance to read it!
A. Varela

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
We chose this book for our book group and everyone just loved it. From the very first chapter it grabbed our imaginations, but more importantly, Esperanza grabbed our hearts. She was such a charming character, full of innocence and yet wise beyond her years. The author painted such vivid pictures with words and you could almost feel the heat of the locations, hear the lilt of Spanish being spoken. I personally hated to finish the book because I had grown to love the unfolding of Esperanza's journey - both literally and figuratively. What delightful surprises and twists of fate! Maria Amparo Escandon is such an original and compassionate writer who captured the true spirit of her character, Esperanza. I found myself laughing, even while feeling sad. It was probably the most enjoyable book I've read in years. Our book group discussion was so animated and we had trouble ending the conversation about the story, the characters and how close we felt to Esperanza. We are praying (to Esperanza's saints) that Senora Escandon will treat us to another book very soon!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Handley on March 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Esperanza's Box of Saints" is a sweet, poignant story. The plot is fast-based as it follows Esperanza across Mexico and into the US as she searches for her daughter who she believes has been kidnapped and sold into prostitution.

The novel is billed as being in the magical realism vein, but those elements are very subtle. There are brief episodes of Esperanza's saints talking to her or otherwise giving her signs, and there is the sense that she is somehow protected, or charmed, as she is able to remain relatively unscathed while undergoing some potentially dangerous or degrading experiences. Otherwise, the story seems very grounded in an everyday world which is pious, sordid, beautiful, and freaky.

For me, the main thing that kept the book from achieving 5 stars is that the characters throughout are fairly superficial - which is something that is common to most "picaresque" novels. Even Esperanza, who undergoes some life-altering events, doesn't really experience any character development since she doesn't take time to reflect on what is happening to her even during her confessions to her priest. Actually, I felt that the priest was the most complex, and even compelling, character of the story and was a little disappointed that there weren't more interactions between him and Esperanza, or at least that there wasn't more depth to the interactions they did have.

One of the strengths of the novel are the descriptive narratives. Ms. Escandon really brings to life the world Esperanza inhabits, from the tropical sights and smells of Veracruz, to the barrenness of Tijuana, to the weirdness of LA. If you read this book you'll never be able to look at dirty ovens or rust stains, or smell tamarinds, in the same way again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was one of those books that I just could not put down.Being a latino it brought back many memories of my mother,a devoted Catholic,and her Saints.When my mother died I kept her Saints and packed them in a box when we moved to our new house.what an excellent job by Ms. Escandon in describing the main character,Esperanza.Not to keen in the ways of the world but certainly not lacking in common sense and wholeheartedly devoted to her only child. This was a refreshing and authentic book unlike so many of the books today that all seem to come from the same brain factory.It should appeal to all audiences.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mari on August 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Esperanza has reasons, albeit a bit farfetched, to believe that her only daughter, declared dead, has actually been sold into child prostitution by an unscrupulous doctor. So mommy doesn't hesitate to go out looking for her baby even if it involves passing herself off as a prostitute, which is sort of difficult since she's the least knowledgeable woman on earth in this kind of, uh, career, and those who are can spot her right away. Her innocence and beauty often put her in uncomfortable and frequently hilarious situations with all sorts of men, ranging from a serious, uptight American judge to a Chicano wrestler that just knows she's the woman for him. Esperanza is an endearing character, especially because she's not in the least aware of the effect she has on men, blinded as she is by her lack of worldliness and her drive to find her missing daughter. It does seem kind of absurd that she has this much power over men without even thinking about it, and even more absurd is the fact that she manages to come away from her experiences without losing her naivete, but then, this is magic realism. It is a funny, lighthearted little story, sweet and sad, just right for a vacation read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Bauer on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Maria Escandon continues the literary tradition of magical realism in this journey about a woman determined to find her lost daughter, who she thinks has been kidnapped and sold into prostitution rather than died in the hospital. Definitely not a serious read, this book is charming, light hearted, and only slightly predictable. A good, fun, quick read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Esperanza is truly an inspirational character. She is always on the move, but her sweet santitos are always by her side. The book is a great balance between a woman's undying faith, as well as her uninhibited sexuallity, which are not two things that most people would expect to find in the same book. I certainly didn't! i definatly recommend this book!
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