In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason

     My reading interests are pretty varied, and I will take recommendations from anybody (readers of this blog, take note!!).  Luckily, I was talking to one of my co-workers right before a reading dry period set in, which is the worst despair for any avid bookworm. We started discussing writers from her home state of Kentucky, Barbara Kingsolver specifically, and then she mentioned Bobbie Ann Mason, who I’d heard of but not read.  One of her recommended reads was In Country by this author, and I didn’t waste time snagging a copy.

It’s odd, how in these times of my starting to re-listen to 80s music and remembering that particular decade, to find this book which takes place in the mid 80s and has a protagonist who is the age that I was at that time.  Beyond this, the similarities end.  Sam Hughes is an independent minded 18 year old girl who is trying to find some direction, and not really getting it from her absent remarried mom or her uncle, a Vietnam vet who Sam fears is suffering from symptoms of Agent Orange.  Her own father was killed in the Vietnam War, and the book largely deals with Sam’s concerns over her uncle, her growing awareness of her father through a diary and old letters, and her gradual acceptance of herself and the aftermath of Vietnam.

    Throughout In Country, Sam is portrayed as likeable, a strong-willed character who is fallible enough to empathize with, as she works through her maze of family obligations and her powerful desire to break out of her small town existence, which simultaneously sustains and stifles her.   The purchase of a used VW Beetle is but one step towards her independence – oddly, this same vehicle unites Sam with extended family members at the beginning and conclusion as Sam drives to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.  The background leading up to this trip then makes up the main part of the book.

   Give In Country a shot if you know or knew somebody who was a Vietnam vet or you were affected directly yourself, if you were coming of age in the 1980s (and remember the music of this decade and a couple previous to it), if you like books about the edge of adulthood and how it is dealt with, or if you like a well-written quick read.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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One Response

  1. What i liked about the book In Country was that the author organized the plot very well and every thing made sense. A symbol in the novel is the letter that Sam found in the shoe box. The letter symbolize the connection between Sam and her father Dwayne. The reason for that is because when Sam read the letters she felt different about her dad and knew more about her father. I think the author Bobbi Ana Mason did a brilliant work on this to tell what the symbol means.

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