Names on a Map

In his sixth novel, Names on a Map , Benjamin Alire Saenz writes about America’s hypercharged Vietnam era with the stoic calm that you might expect from a former priest (which he is). The war has crossed the Pacific to visit the Espejo family in their El Paso home: Eighteen-year-old Gus is thinking about ignoring his draft call and running to Mexico; twin sister Xochil protests against the Southeast Asian conflict (despite her romantic entanglement with gung ho enlistee Jack Evans); and their father, Octavio, enraged by his children’s pacifist leanings—this is surely not the America his father fled the Mexican Revolution for—instigates bitter fights with both them and his wife, Lourdes. Names on a Map is Sáenz’s typically well-wrought fiction, though this story of a house divided might have benefited from a bit less manner and a bit more passion. Harper Perennial, $14.95

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