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Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation Paperback – August 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140292020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140292022
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mexican American journalist John Phillip Santos's lyrical and loving memoir explores his family's history in magnificent prose touched with the singing cadences of his Spanish-language heritage yet vibrant with the energy of American English. It's a combination utterly suited to his native San Antonio, where las viejitas--the little old ladies of the Garcia and Santos families--ruled over their children and grandchildren with the toughness and grandeur of the Mexico they left during the revolution of 1914. "Poised between those ancient Indio origins from the south ... and our Mestizo future in the north," these new Texans made Mexico live for their descendants in the magical stories and folkloric practices of an older culture. Yet there was also a sense of secrets kept and cherished possessions left behind, of people who had traveled far and traveled light. 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." Nonetheless, this is a book that restores to memory the drama not just of a single family but of an entire people whose past is more closely entwined with that of the United States than some Americans care to remember. Santos depicts them with care and dignity. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Mexico was always an empire of forgetting," writes Santos in his elegantly crafted chronicle of one of the thousands of Mexican families who fled to El Norte during the Mexican Revolution. An award-winning documentary television producer for CBS and the first Mexican-American Rhodes Scholar (1979), Santos struggles with the destiny of "every Mexican" to either embrace or lose entirely the "hidden light left behind in the past with los Abuelos" (one's grandparents). In a story told in part by ghosts, Santos takes the reader through the Inframundo, the timeless underworld of the ancient peoples of Mexico, to find out how he came to be the scion of a now-childless family. His tale is inhabited by eclectic charactersAa clairvoyant albino aunt; a great-grandfather stolen by the Kickapu Indians; an aunt who learned English from the young Lyndon Baines Johnson in exchange for cabbages and potatoes. Then there was Santos's grandfather, Juan Jos?, whose unresolved death by drowning in 1939 haunts the book. Combining traditional memoir, ancient Mexican history and beliefs, personal sacramental journeys and ghostly interviews, Santos gallops across the desert mountains of Coahuila through a flood of migrating Monarch butterflies, recalls long-ago predawn breakfast rituals in a Mexican village and flies with the Aztec "guardians of time"Athe Volador dancers at the 1968 HemisFair in San Antonio. His book is one of the most insightful investigations into Mexican-American border culture available. Agent, Janis Valelly, Flaming Star Literary Enterprises; 10-city author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The reader becomes familia with him and his wonderful family.
David
Santos' writing style is as enthralling as it is articulate, a language so alive that it immediately befriends the reader.
Jeff
This is a must read for anyone serious about literary excellence.
Larry Lopez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ernesto Portillo Jr. (ernesto.portillo@uniontrib.com) on November 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Santos eloquently and humbly unfolds his story, his family's story, our story. Like the millions of Mexican-American families who repeatedly cross the border in order to sustain their lives and history, Santos crosses back and forth with tender testimonials, giving life to the varied and vigorous communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a splendid memoir filled with universal themes of strong family bonds and appreciation for remembering the past. The author is subtle but powerful in his writing.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a Environmental Professional whose hobby is Homemaking, this book is ruining my week. Until I finish reading it, I am not joining the working world. Why is it that someone in another city and family network can stir one's own similar memories. Is this what we mean by culture, our history of the mexican american peoples of the U.S? If my job, house and family can afford it, I will read again. This time I plan to mark up the pages for the vibrant vocabulary not yet part of mine. Not since I was a philosophy major have I read a book which contained such rich prose.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Cortez on January 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
An amazingly eloquent book. The book reads like poetry, and has a language rarely seen in today's writing. Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation is truly one of the most beautifully written books of 1999. It is not your typical book written for a limited reader. The prose are prolific and wrought with amazing imagery. It is so refreshing to read a book written by someone with such a gift for language. Places Left Unfinished paints a very interesting and accurate story of a culture in transition, through the story of a family in touch with its past and exploring its future. This is truly a book lover's book!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
So often the essence of Hispanic culture, especially when addressing Mexico, Central and South America, is referred to as "Magical Realism". Whether referring to the literature of Marquez, Allende, Arenas, the paintings of Kahlo, Rivera, Bravo, Marquez, Borges, or the music of Ginestera, et al - the unifying element usually refers to this genre. Few authors have been successful in describing the origins or even the meaning of the term...that is, until John Phillip Santos elegantly warm memoir PLACES LEFT UNFINISHED AT THE TIME OF CREATION. Santos revisits his history through the immediacy of immigrant (yet unaltered) Old Ladies, creating from their tales a lush, incendiary canvas of passion, faith, commitment, hardship, and resilience. He adroitly mixes the two languages (Spanish and English) with finesse, at times translating for the non-Spanish reader, and at times allowing the beauty of his Spanish phrases to sing for themselves. This book is a paean to the sanctity of the souls of the immigrants who have endured the agony of expatriation, who have entered El Norte to find, if not their fortunes, then their integrity as human beings. This beautifully written book should be on the shelves of the libraries of schools throughout the USA...but it should also be in the library of everyone who wonders about the beauty of the Hispanic heritage - which for lack of a better name we call Magical Realism.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeff on July 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Santos' writing style is as enthralling as it is articulate, a language so alive that it immediately befriends the reader. At times this autobiography is more of a prose poem than a narrative: "On those chilly nights he slept in the open country, having heard stories of Texas ranchers shooting Mexicans they found on their property. To him, it all looked like high Coahuila desert land. There weren't many fences then, so you could walk long flat stretches of the parched land with only bird shadows for shade...it looked like home, only, he pointed out, there were more stones on the Texas side" (50).

Such lines are not surprising since Santos is also a poet, and we see this style reiterated throughout as he delves deeply into the family histories of his father and mother. Some of us may think we know old Southwestern cities like San Antonio, but Santos' takes us into a hinterland of Texas, and Coahuila, Mexico, that we have never seen, one where the strength of memory endures amid a pervading and eloquent tone of pastoral loneliness. At times Santos is hauntingly prescient, as when he speaks of viewing New York City's Twin Towers as dolmens -- upright tombs from prehistoric times.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Larry Lopez on December 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
JP Santos is a master of the human language. In this day and age of bestseller who-cares-who-done-its it's refreshing to see a masterpiece of literature emerge to the forefront. This is a must read for anyone serious about literary excellence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Katyroadpink on July 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Mr. Santos' lyrical and thoughtful storytelling provides welcome insight into the history and culture of south Texas. The book provided a window into parts of San Antonio about which I have been both ignorant and curious. This is a smart selection as the first read for the 1 Book 1 San Antonio program.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Santos does a masterful job of portraying a Mexican/American family in San Antonio, South Texas, and Northern Mexico. The reader becomes familia with him and his wonderful family. Without bitterness he peels off the cover of racism and discrimination that so many have suffered from. Un buen libro.
Father of David Santos,,,
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