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About The Book

Esperanza's Box of Saints is a magical, humorous, and passion-filled odyssey about a beautiful young widow's search for her missing child -- a mission that takes her from a humble Mexican village to the rowdy brothels of Tijuana and a rarely seen side of Los Angeles. Rescued from turmoil by her favorite saint, Esperanza embarks on a journey that tests her faith, teaches her the ways of the world, and transforms her from a fervently religious innocent to an independent, sexual, and passionately devout woman.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
Esperanza's Box of Saints is a magical, humorous, and passion-filled odyssey about a beautiful young widow's search for her missing child -- a mission that takes her from a humble Mexican village to the rowdy brothels of Tijuana and a rarely seen side of Los Angeles. But it's not just a geographical journey -- it's also a journey of self-discovery.
  1. What did you think of Esperanza's apparitions? Are they serious? Comical? Rooted in religion? Why do you think the author chose San Judas Tadeo to be her patron saint?
  2. Esperanza carries her box of saints wherever she goes. What do you think this box represents? Is it the mobility of faith? Or perhaps the saints are protection from evil? Why do you think strangers find her altar so intriguing?
  3. Are you convinced that Blanca really died in the hospital, or do you believe that she's still alive? Did your opinion change at different times during the book? If so, when? Did you agree with Esperanza's intuition?
  4. Esperanza has been living with Soledad for twelve years. Do you think their relationship is supportive or destructive? What does Soledad's presence bring to the plot and to Esperanza's mental and physical well-being?
  5. How do you think Esperanza's major losses (husband and only child) at such a young age have affected her and her outlook on life?
  6. What role do shoes play in Esperanza's journey? She's always searching for the perfect shoes -- then ruining or losing them. What do you think this says about her?
  7. When Esperanza goes from brothel to brothel while searching for Blanca, she meets some interesting characters along the way. Do you think it's realistic that each one breaks the rules for Esperanza? What is it about her innocence that allows her to remain unharmed?
  8. The bulk of the novel takes place in Southern California and Mexico. Did the pace and spirit of the writing give you a tangible sense of place and cultural background? How did Esperanza's surroundings affect the plot?
  9. Did you ever think that Esperanza would find love and trust in another adult? Did you expect someone like Angel to be her savior? How did you think the tale would end?
  10. On the surface, Esperanza dramatically reinvents herself to survive, but after she completes her odyssey -- and her journey of self-discovery -- do you think she's still the same person inside?

Born in Mexico, María Amparo Escandón now lives in Los Angeles where she cofounded a Spanish-language advertising agency with her husband. She teaches writing through the UCLA Extension service, and her stories have been published in many magazines.
Why I Wrote Esperanza's Box of Saints
by María Amparo Escandón

Esperanza Box of Saints became a novel after a question popped up in my mind: What if I was told that my daughter had died and I wasn't able to confirm her death? My immediate answer would be to deny it. To prove them wrong I would do what anyone else would in this case: anything and everything. Call on other worldly forces for guidance? Sure. Set out to find her who knows where in the world? Of course. Become a prostitute? You bet. And in the process of looking for her, I'd most likely find myself. And so Esperanza embarks on this magical, amusing yet enlightening, serious yet irreverent journey of self-discovery. I wanted to write a painful comedy in a quirky, whimsical, bold, sensuous, agile way that could make the reader laugh to tears in the midst of the tragedy. I also wanted to keep this story outside the margins of magic realism. Why keep magic within the parameters of extraordinary worlds when it abounds in real life? Esperanza's story is magical reality, the kind that people who live in Mexico encounter every day.

To learn more about Esperanza's Box of Saints and to correspond with the author, visit Mariía Amparo Escandón on the World Wide Web at:

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Born in Mexico, María Amparo Escandón now lives in Los Angeles. She has taught writing at UCLA Extension, and her stories have been published in many magazines.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (December 21, 2010)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439144169

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Raves and Reviews

"Esperanza's Box of Saints fills our souls with colors and flavors, but more importantly with a sense of genuine, heartfelt candor, born from true faith. With a smile on our face and a pang in our heart, we find renewed hope in Esperanza's quest." Laura Esquivel

"The saints in María Amparo Escandón's novel take us on a journey that explores the nature of sin and absolution, the pain of loss, and the resurrection of enormously compassionate work about a woman who wrestles with her own faith and emerges victorious." John Sayles

"A sweet and entertaining novel by an inventive writer." —Oscar Hijuelos

"A highly original, beautifully written, and heartwarming tale." —Tony Hillerman

"A stunning commentary on religion and sex." —Rudolfo Anaya

"[Escandón] takes us on a spirited journey at once poignant and hilarious. May the Saints bless the innocence and courage of Esperanza Diaz, the novel's inimitable hero, who winds her way through the world toward independence. May the Saints preserve her wit, tenacity, and passion." —Sandra Benitez

"A fascinating world where the mystical and the mundane collide...funny, offbeat, and bold...definitely a new landmark in Latin American literature."Jorge Ramos anchor, Univision Network

"Here is a Mexican woman's take on the Odyssean tale: a mother looking for a daughter, guided by a Saint's image on a grime-drenched glass oven door...this motherlove keeps Esperanza from losing her conscience, her beauty, and the purity of her soul. I admire Escandón's telling, a seduction in itself."—Luis Rodriguez

"This novel introduces us to many saints in heaven, and the more interesting—and struggling—saints-in-the-making right here on earth. A charming and compassionate fable." —Carolyn See

"A haunting and hunting tale of spiritual self-discovery wherein a searcher and the object of her search are one and the same. María Amparo Escandón writes with enviable assurance and deceitful simplicity. Her style is all about sight, belief, and memory. And her tale is miraculous: it has the weight of a myth and the beauty of a legend." —Ilan Stavans

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