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In Country

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The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam came home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent. "Astronauts The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam came home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent. "Astronauts have been to the moon," she blurted out to the picture. "You missed Watergate. I was in the second grade." She stared at the picture, squinting her eyes, as if she expected it to come to life. But Dwayne had died with his secrets. Emmett was walking around with his. Anyone who survived Vietnam seemed to regard it as something personal and embarrassing. Granddad had said they were embarrassed that they were still alive. "I guess you're not embarrassed," she said to the picture. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.


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The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam came home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent. "Astronauts The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam came home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent. "Astronauts have been to the moon," she blurted out to the picture. "You missed Watergate. I was in the second grade." She stared at the picture, squinting her eyes, as if she expected it to come to life. But Dwayne had died with his secrets. Emmett was walking around with his. Anyone who survived Vietnam seemed to regard it as something personal and embarrassing. Granddad had said they were embarrassed that they were still alive. "I guess you're not embarrassed," she said to the picture. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

30 review for In Country

  1. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    This book wasn't bad at all and there wasn't anything I particularly disliked about it, it just feel very flat for me. The main character is sorting through identity issues because her father died in Vietnam before she was born so she's trying to learn about Vietnam to unveil some of the secrecy behind her father. I think there were some really cool threads in this book that were pulled together, and it definitely has something to say about femininity and war, but I couldn't really connect with This book wasn't bad at all and there wasn't anything I particularly disliked about it, it just feel very flat for me. The main character is sorting through identity issues because her father died in Vietnam before she was born so she's trying to learn about Vietnam to unveil some of the secrecy behind her father. I think there were some really cool threads in this book that were pulled together, and it definitely has something to say about femininity and war, but I couldn't really connect with Sam and idk. I can't put my finger on why this one didn't really grab me; it was just alright. Not boring, not badly written, just not nearly as good as The Things They Carried, which was the book we read right before this one that blew me off my feet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anna Serene

    Fucking finally finished this piece of shit. Ok, so I read this for class and I legitimately don't understand what is so great about this book. The writing style is annoying and sort of choppy. I didn't like Sam, I didn't care about Emmett, and I think just because you don't have sex with a minor (but only because you can't get a hardon) doesn't make me like you. The only person I could stand was Irene, her mother, and that is probably because she was only in it for about five minutes. Am I missi Fucking finally finished this piece of shit. Ok, so I read this for class and I legitimately don't understand what is so great about this book. The writing style is annoying and sort of choppy. I didn't like Sam, I didn't care about Emmett, and I think just because you don't have sex with a minor (but only because you can't get a hardon) doesn't make me like you. The only person I could stand was Irene, her mother, and that is probably because she was only in it for about five minutes. Am I missing something? I personally think this book is a piece of crap, and yet it's being taught in schools. Usually, when I read something for school, even if I don't like it I can appreciate the idea of it, or the writing, or fucking something! I don't know what other people see in this, but I am going to stand by my original statement and say this book sucks monkey nuts.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Pershall

    As someone obsessed with Vietnam, the '80s, and strange-girls-coming-of-age stories, I was keen to read this one. And for the first 3/4 of the book, it didn't disappoint. Great heroine, set in the South, lots of references to early MTV, and a gripping central mystery: are Uncle Emmett's health problems a result of Agent Orange or not? It definitely kept me turning pages, and more than once I was reminded of Carson McCullers (always a good thing.) But then it came to the last 40 or so pages, and i As someone obsessed with Vietnam, the '80s, and strange-girls-coming-of-age stories, I was keen to read this one. And for the first 3/4 of the book, it didn't disappoint. Great heroine, set in the South, lots of references to early MTV, and a gripping central mystery: are Uncle Emmett's health problems a result of Agent Orange or not? It definitely kept me turning pages, and more than once I was reminded of Carson McCullers (always a good thing.) But then it came to the last 40 or so pages, and it fell into hackneyed dialogue and sloppy, sentimental writing. Characters went "weak in the knees," were "wracked with sobs," and planes had wings like birds (Uncle Emmett's a bird watcher, and the symbolism gets ham-fisted as all hell.) It was like she had to finish it in a hurry and without an editor or something. Way too many words that didn't need to be there -- for example, a character's talking, the quotation marks end in the middle of a paragraph, and then there's a "He continued," more quotes, and more of the character's speech. I found myself editing as I read, which is never a good sign. It's the first Bobbie Ann Mason I've read, and I liked the parts I liked well enough to read something else she wrote. I'll certainly give her another chance, I just wonder what happened here. Oh, and don't expect the mystery to be solved.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Very much enjoyed this book. It was a "blast from the past," as we used to say growing up. Set in 1984, many of the references and allusions are to music/things/products/foods that were part of my youth. I was roughly the same age as the main character in 1984, in fact, so for sure could relate. The book details (almost overloads you, in fact) on the repercussions of the Vietnam War. For readers who didn't grow up during this time, the subject is still timely, considering all wars have similar af Very much enjoyed this book. It was a "blast from the past," as we used to say growing up. Set in 1984, many of the references and allusions are to music/things/products/foods that were part of my youth. I was roughly the same age as the main character in 1984, in fact, so for sure could relate. The book details (almost overloads you, in fact) on the repercussions of the Vietnam War. For readers who didn't grow up during this time, the subject is still timely, considering all wars have similar after effects for friends and families of the soldiers who return home (or who don't). One of the most powerful passages is when Sam looks at the photo of her father, who died in the war: "She stared at the picture...But Dwayne had died with his secrets. Emmett was walking around with his. Anyone who survived Vietnam seemed to regard it as something personal and embarrassing. Granddad had said they were embarrassed that they lost the war, but Emmett said they were embarrassed that they were still alive. 'I guess you're not embarrassed,' she said to the picture. "The face in the picture ruled the room, like the picture of the President on the wall of the high school auditorium. Sam set Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the stereo. "'You missed this too,' she said."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    "I'll tell you my Vietnam story," Anita said..."One spring weekend in 1969 I was on a bus to Bowling Green going to see my aunt, and some boys got on at Fort Campbell. One of them sat across from me and talked with me. I was reading a book of poetry. This boy tried to read it over my shoulder, and he told me he liked poetry. Well, that really impressed me, because how many guys will read a poem? He wasn't just saying it to flirt, either. He told me about some poems he had read. And then he told "I'll tell you my Vietnam story," Anita said..."One spring weekend in 1969 I was on a bus to Bowling Green going to see my aunt, and some boys got on at Fort Campbell. One of them sat across from me and talked with me. I was reading a book of poetry. This boy tried to read it over my shoulder, and he told me he liked poetry. Well, that really impressed me, because how many guys will read a poem? He wasn't just saying it to flirt, either. He told me about some poems he had read. And then he told me that he was shipping out to Vietnam the next day. All of them were. And that really got me. I thought-why, he could go over there and die! I never knew who he was or if he came back alive....But for years I thought--that was my Vietnam experience. It always sounded silly to tell it, but I think it affected me more than hearing the war on the news. Because it was real and I was right there, on that bus with all those boys. I just know some of them didn't come back. This quote is long, but it sums up this book in a nutshell for me. It's macrocosm made microcosm. It's large-scale tragedy boiled down to the experience of a handful of people, making it real and accessible in ways you don't see coming. Before I get started, I'd like to say that the top review of this book (with 5 Likes) is a one star that calls it "monkey nuts." This isn't the best book I've ever read, it's not even the best book I read this year (but then again, I read Pride and Prejudice this year.) This book appears to have been largely forgotten, but my hope is one of the other reviews--ANY other review--will make it's way to the top spot. I'm sorry Bobbie Ann Mason, this book is certainly not monkey nuts. The story takes place in the summer of 1984, the year Sam Hughes graduates from high school. Bright, obsessive and restless, Sam is meant for bigger things than the small (fictional) town she has grown up in in the far western edge of Kentucky near Paducah. However she feels tethered there by her devotion to her uncle Emmett, a charming eccentric autodidact whose sunny exterior fails to completely mask the physical and emotional torments of the Vietnam War. Sam never knew her father, who died in the war soon after finding out Sam's mother was pregnant with her. The story of the events of that summer are book-ended by a trip to the newly opened Vietnam War Memorial Sam takes with her uncle and grandmother. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and my Dad was a Vietnam vet with his own baggage from the war, so this novel really hit close to home. And being only a few years younger than Sam, I loved reliving the cultural moments of the time with her: MTV, Born in the USA, Ghostbusters. (What I didn't have was an Uncle Emmett, but teenage Vanessa would have absolutely loved to have had an intellectual hippie malcontent to drink, make fun of Paris, Kentucky, and watch MASH with.) The book delved so much into the daily routines of Sam's life, I was never bored due to the beautiful writing, but I kept expecting this to be a three star read for me. Then I got to the end and.....I just felt overwhelmed. I had to sit for a few minutes. I cared about these people way more than I realized and when they get that perfect moment of closure on the final pages.... (I'm not crying! You're crying!) I can't stop thinking about it, or the way Mason made the feels sneak up on me. Very good and worth rediscovering.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    My reaction on re-reading's pretty much what it was the first time through. Mason's telling an important story focused on the daughter of a father killed in Vietnam before her birth. Sam Hughes, the daughter, is immersed in mid-80s pop culture (especially Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album and MASH re-runs) and the sketch of the small-town Kentucky milieu is compelling but not as densely realized as Mason's short story collections. It's the classic "nothing major wrong with it" book that My reaction on re-reading's pretty much what it was the first time through. Mason's telling an important story focused on the daughter of a father killed in Vietnam before her birth. Sam Hughes, the daughter, is immersed in mid-80s pop culture (especially Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album and MASH re-runs) and the sketch of the small-town Kentucky milieu is compelling but not as densely realized as Mason's short story collections. It's the classic "nothing major wrong with it" book that doesn't take me anywhere I'm not already aware of. The community of Vietnam vets tilts a bit toward "types" (not quite stereotypes); the agent orange theme is praiseworthy but a bit superficial; Sam's reading of her fathers letters and diary leads to an emotional response which doesn't quite work--it requires us to believe she's much more naive about the war than someone who's read a bunch of books about it, which she has, could possibly remain. One specific false note: Sam's uncle Emmett is one of the anti-war vets portrayed in the novel. At one point, he unfurls a Viet Cong flag as a political statement. While I know a good number of anti-war Vietnam vets, I've never met one who would have considered associating himself with the Viet Cong or the NVA flags, which represent sympathy for those who killed their comrades. Placing the scene in a small Southern town makes it even less believable. An okay introduction to an important set of themes. The book teaches well, but has to be followed up with some serious footnoting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This book has stuck with me since I first read it ten years ago in an American Literature college course. It's a book that, stylistically, probably deserves four stars; there are some awkward jolts in the momentum of the story. But I can't bring myself to lower my perfect rating. I get so attached to Sam and Emmett everytime I re-read this book that I feel like I would be letting them down personally if I were to confess flaws in the story. Several reviewers have noted that this book ought to be This book has stuck with me since I first read it ten years ago in an American Literature college course. It's a book that, stylistically, probably deserves four stars; there are some awkward jolts in the momentum of the story. But I can't bring myself to lower my perfect rating. I get so attached to Sam and Emmett everytime I re-read this book that I feel like I would be letting them down personally if I were to confess flaws in the story. Several reviewers have noted that this book ought to be on high school reading lists. I agree. As a high school English teacher, I added this to my curriculum and found it was a great asset, both to class conversation, but also to my students' understanding of Vietnam and its legacy. Mason deftly juxtaposes the vapid pop culture of 1980's America against the raw wound of Vietnam's collective memory.

  8. 4 out of 5

    sweet pea

    i liked the concept of the novel quite a bit - a Vietnam War story told as a coming-of-age story by a girl coming to terms with her family's war history. but, in the telling, the book was often disappointing. too many of the themes were beat to death - Agent Orange, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, M*A*S*H, etc. the moments that were supposed to be poignant were increasingly not. any love i had for Sam was obliterated by the end of the novel. perhaps if the author was drawing more from her life, i liked the concept of the novel quite a bit - a Vietnam War story told as a coming-of-age story by a girl coming to terms with her family's war history. but, in the telling, the book was often disappointing. too many of the themes were beat to death - Agent Orange, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, M*A*S*H, etc. the moments that were supposed to be poignant were increasingly not. any love i had for Sam was obliterated by the end of the novel. perhaps if the author was drawing more from her life, it would have saved the novel. as it was it was a mediocre read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    HeavyReader

    I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. Sam, the main character is kind of annoying. She's 18 and "finding herself" and coming to terms with her family history and the history of the Vietnam War, so I guess it doesn't surprise me that she is annoying. She is probably supposed to be annoying. In any case, I was annoyed. All of the characters were kind of bland. I didn't hate any of them, but I didn't love any of them either. I guess that's how I felt about this whole book: didn't hate I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. Sam, the main character is kind of annoying. She's 18 and "finding herself" and coming to terms with her family history and the history of the Vietnam War, so I guess it doesn't surprise me that she is annoying. She is probably supposed to be annoying. In any case, I was annoyed. All of the characters were kind of bland. I didn't hate any of them, but I didn't love any of them either. I guess that's how I felt about this whole book: didn't hate it; didn't love it. Not a glowing endorsement.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Sensitive, insightful novel about the Vietnam War published in 1985 amid the tide of fiction on the topic being written then. I reviewed many of them. Here I liked the articulate voice of the narrator, Sam Hughes, whose father died over there and whose vet uncle she lives with in Kentucky. Sam is learning about life and herself. Lots of pop culture references from the time period are included. If I had to read one work of fiction on Vietnam, then I'd pick this one. Sensitive, insightful novel about the Vietnam War published in 1985 amid the tide of fiction on the topic being written then. I reviewed many of them. Here I liked the articulate voice of the narrator, Sam Hughes, whose father died over there and whose vet uncle she lives with in Kentucky. Sam is learning about life and herself. Lots of pop culture references from the time period are included. If I had to read one work of fiction on Vietnam, then I'd pick this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A well-written book that proves a good storyteller can take even a small story and make it compelling. This book is set in the summer of 1984 and tells about Sam Hughes, a recent high-school graduate who never knew her father because he was killed in Vietnam. Published in 1985, this is one of the earliest novels to deal with how Vietnam affected the children of soldiers and also one of the earliest adult novels with a Gen X protagonist. The story centers around Sam's attempts to reconcile the mea A well-written book that proves a good storyteller can take even a small story and make it compelling. This book is set in the summer of 1984 and tells about Sam Hughes, a recent high-school graduate who never knew her father because he was killed in Vietnam. Published in 1985, this is one of the earliest novels to deal with how Vietnam affected the children of soldiers and also one of the earliest adult novels with a Gen X protagonist. The story centers around Sam's attempts to reconcile the meaning of her father's death -- and life -- largely through her attempt to get her uncle Emmett, who also served in Vietnam, to talk about his experiences. It culminates in a road trip from their western Kentucky home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, where Emmett finds peace and Sam realizes that even though her father's legacy is complicated, his story is also her story -- and every American's story. The best thing about this book is how Bobbie Ann Mason doesn't make it obvious what everything is leading towards. It reads like, and is, a coming-of-age novel, but there are red herrings and feints along the way. It's not about Sam's future or love life, and her crusade is not what you originally suspect. Mason writes great dialogue, but it's her use of form and style in this book that helps advance the story and direct its impact. By not telling the story in a straight line she is able to manage the emotional flow by keeping her most intense scenes (the swamp scene and the wall) close together. More subtly, her writing style changes from simple and sparse to richly detailed throughout the novel depending on how close Sam is to connecting with her father: The closer she gets, the more detail there is. I've read a lot of the other Goodreads reviews of this book and I'll offer a couple helpful notes from someone who was a teen in the mid-1980s. First, in the summer of 1984, you simply could not escape from Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A," neither the song nor the album. Its prominence in this novel, as well as that of music in general, is not overstated. Likewise, everyone watched M*A*S*H reruns, even while they were still making new episodes. We understood full well that the show used the Korean War as a backdrop but was actually about Vietnam. (MAD magazine made that a prominent feature of its satire of the show.) Sam's enjoyment of old music is also typical of early Gen Xers at that time. We didn't have our own artists yet, so especially for those of us who lived far from cities, we had to take what we could get. It's by no means anachronistic that Sam loves the Beatles and the Kinks, to name just two. And then there's the question of Sam's near-tryst with her uncle's fellow veteran Tom. Sam is stated to be 17 in the book while Tom is in his mid-thirties. We would indeed have found it inappropriate back in the day for Sam to go over to Tom's house after the veterans' dance. And Tom knows it's wrong for him to take an interest in Sam; when Sam first goes to look at the car she ends up buying from him, he tells her "I know what you need" and immediately realizes he shouldn't have said it. This leaves no doubt about what he meant. But, had they followed through, it would not have been a crime in Kentucky in 1984, though it would be now -- and it still wouldn't be a crime in 39 of the 50 states. As for why Sam is interested in Tom in the first place, this is literally a novel about how she has "daddy issues." Maybe Mason didn't need to go there, but we can't be too shocked that she did. This is a book that could only have been published when it was (1985), while the pop culture narrative around Vietnam was beginning to change. We as a nation did a poor job welcoming our veterans home and helping them return to civilian life. This is literally what the song "Born in the U.S.A" is about. That changed significantly in the latter half of the 1980s as Americans who did not serve got a clearer picture of how the Vietnam experience was different from World War II and Korea. By the time the movie based on this book came out in 1989, we'd all seen Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Good Morning, Vietnam in the theaters and China Beach and Tour of Duty on TV. Mason's book probably played a small role in that changing tide but the movie got lost in it. Still, the book is worth reading even now. From a nostalgic point of view, it's an accurate picture of what it was like to be a teen in a remote American place during the mid-1980s. More than that, the book's central theme is still relevant: The story of our Vietnam-era soldiers is our story as Americans and we must not ignore it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ian Cann

    A beautiful story that makes its point in a quiet emphatic way without hitting you over the head with the sledgehammer of plot and meaning. The world that Mason depicts feels real and moving - that quiet rural American town where nothing seems to happen slowly with people either trapped or looking for an escape route. The impact of Vietnam and the exploration of Agent Orange and PTSD for the veterans such as Emmett is sensitively handled and evocatively written and the way in which the novel wor A beautiful story that makes its point in a quiet emphatic way without hitting you over the head with the sledgehammer of plot and meaning. The world that Mason depicts feels real and moving - that quiet rural American town where nothing seems to happen slowly with people either trapped or looking for an escape route. The impact of Vietnam and the exploration of Agent Orange and PTSD for the veterans such as Emmett is sensitively handled and evocatively written and the way in which the novel works towards its ending and Sam figuring out her place in the world is excellent and moving.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Graham Oliver

    It was nice to read something set where I grew up (with a lot of geographic references) but the writing itself was annoyingly blunt and melodramatic like a bad YA book and without a great plot to redeem it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Catster

    3.5 - I really wanted to like this book more, some parts were very good and deep but others were just meh! I was baffled how the characters in a lot of the dialogues were simply not listening and just not talking to each other. It was the weirdest thing! Was it on purpose? I don’t know...I still want to watch the movie though.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    I read this in school in the 90s and remembered it as a powerful book about a kid discovering the Vietnam war. My youngest and I began it as a read out loud and I quickly realized that it really isn't that good. I don't know if it was just my first introduction to the Vietnam issues (but that can't be true) or what, but upon second reading it really doesn't hold up. Sam is rather simplistic and her concerns are real, but come across as paranoid. In some ways, this is accurate (she is just a powe I read this in school in the 90s and remembered it as a powerful book about a kid discovering the Vietnam war. My youngest and I began it as a read out loud and I quickly realized that it really isn't that good. I don't know if it was just my first introduction to the Vietnam issues (but that can't be true) or what, but upon second reading it really doesn't hold up. Sam is rather simplistic and her concerns are real, but come across as paranoid. In some ways, this is accurate (she is just a powerless kid and so is worried without being able to do anything about it), but in some ways not (she is about to go off to college, buys a car, and generally takes care of herself so she's not really a KID anymore). It is a character piece (there is no real plot), but without any real character development. It is more just a morass of whining about Vietnam and a bad road trip to Washington DC. Overall I was not impressed, rather bored, and only slightly entertained by the dated name drops (Ho Jo!).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Muelleck

    It's pretty rare a book turns me around after underwhelming me a lot at the start, but this one did. Abby rightly pointed out Bobbie Ann Mason writes a mean short story, and in some ways each chapter of this novel feels like a story, some stronger than others. My interest in fiction related to the Vietnam War is zero; hippies make me crazy and I never want to read books about political activism of any kind, but Mason here keeps it tightly focused on one haphazard family and their small circle of It's pretty rare a book turns me around after underwhelming me a lot at the start, but this one did. Abby rightly pointed out Bobbie Ann Mason writes a mean short story, and in some ways each chapter of this novel feels like a story, some stronger than others. My interest in fiction related to the Vietnam War is zero; hippies make me crazy and I never want to read books about political activism of any kind, but Mason here keeps it tightly focused on one haphazard family and their small circle of veteran friends. Sam, the teenage narrator on the cusp of adulthood, is sympathetic enough and everyone else is engaging and resist becoming caricatures of Kentuckians or troubled vets. But the present tense/flashback structure is a pretty glaring weakness; the flashback section (the majority of the novel) is much stronger than its beginning and end. The audiobook read by Jill Brennan is deplorable in every way. Her Southern accent and voice modulation made me cringe throughout.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Stuart

    With an unconventional family structure, carefully worked popular culture references and Vietnam Vet's that are a little more three dimensional than the stock "good guy goes to 'nam, it's horrible and he comes back scarred and angry," Mason creates a coming-of-age tale not just of Sam and Emmett, but of a distinct national experience. The story does tend to clunk along like Sam's shitty VW on its way to D.C, but "In Country" is an enjoyable read and a refreshing take on post-Vietnam America. The With an unconventional family structure, carefully worked popular culture references and Vietnam Vet's that are a little more three dimensional than the stock "good guy goes to 'nam, it's horrible and he comes back scarred and angry," Mason creates a coming-of-age tale not just of Sam and Emmett, but of a distinct national experience. The story does tend to clunk along like Sam's shitty VW on its way to D.C, but "In Country" is an enjoyable read and a refreshing take on post-Vietnam America. The continual transition of America from small settlements and community spirit into a commercial behemoth is nicely juxtaposed with the neglect and decline of the Vietnam Veteran and his experience. I recommend listening to Springsteen's "Born in the USA" album in its intended entirety pre-read; it is referenced several times during the novel and provides a fitting backdrop of the era, war experience and importance of locale in the text. A great story hindered slightly by its labored tempo.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Curtis Bozif

    This book was written at a strange time in America's relationship to the Vietnam War. Reagan was president, and people had stopped asking "why were we in Vietnam?" and started asking an even stranger question, "why didn't we win in Vietnam?" The National Vietnam Veterans Memorial had just been dedicated and the country was supposedly in the process of finally welcoming home it's forgotten veterans. But for my taste, In Country is often times heavy handed, preachy, and melodramatic. The dialogue This book was written at a strange time in America's relationship to the Vietnam War. Reagan was president, and people had stopped asking "why were we in Vietnam?" and started asking an even stranger question, "why didn't we win in Vietnam?" The National Vietnam Veterans Memorial had just been dedicated and the country was supposedly in the process of finally welcoming home it's forgotten veterans. But for my taste, In Country is often times heavy handed, preachy, and melodramatic. The dialogue seems unrealistic. But, despite it's limitations I know of no other book like this one. In Country provides a unique perspective on complexities of not only growing up a child of a Vietnam vet, but a daughter of a Vietnam vet, which I've seen first hand with my older sister, but can in no way completely understand.

  19. 5 out of 5

    gaudeo

    Touted as an award-winning modern classic of the Vietnam War, this book looks at the war through the eyes of the adolescent daughter of a soldier killed in Vietnam. At least, that description fits the last quarter of the book fairly well--when the girl discovers, among other things, that the war meant killing people. The rest of the book is more a depiction of small-town Kentucky life in the mid-1980s. Still, it's a well-written, if rather quiet, book. Touted as an award-winning modern classic of the Vietnam War, this book looks at the war through the eyes of the adolescent daughter of a soldier killed in Vietnam. At least, that description fits the last quarter of the book fairly well--when the girl discovers, among other things, that the war meant killing people. The rest of the book is more a depiction of small-town Kentucky life in the mid-1980s. Still, it's a well-written, if rather quiet, book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Isadora Wagner

    This is a great coming-of-age book for girls and post-Vietnam War novel bound up all together. Sam Hughes is delightful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Found record that I read this during a lost summer. I don't recall any aspect of the novel. Found record that I read this during a lost summer. I don't recall any aspect of the novel.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    He jabbed his straw in his Coke and whirled the ice around. "Stop thinking about Vietnam, Sambo. You don't know how it was, and you never will. There is no way you can ever understand. So just forget it. Unless you've been humping the boonies, you don't know." Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country is an engaging yet beguiling novel. If, as some other Goodread reviewers have noted, you focus entirely on the surface, you find an endless litany of pop-culture references and a disjointed plot. If you focus o He jabbed his straw in his Coke and whirled the ice around. "Stop thinking about Vietnam, Sambo. You don't know how it was, and you never will. There is no way you can ever understand. So just forget it. Unless you've been humping the boonies, you don't know." Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country is an engaging yet beguiling novel. If, as some other Goodread reviewers have noted, you focus entirely on the surface, you find an endless litany of pop-culture references and a disjointed plot. If you focus on the characters and implications inherent in their actions and speech, you find an amazingly realistic novel exploring how people's opinions and mindsets are conditioned by environmental factors and are redefined by experience and growth. Sam is not a particularly likable protagonist. The narrative focuses so heavily on Sam's inner-thoughts and emotions that, until I reread it, I was certain the novel was in first person. Unlike so many YA novels, Mason does not endow her protagonist with knowledge and dispositions beyond her age. Sam is a gem of a character: She doesn't often have the perfect comebacks, she doesn't have the insight to see herself as the reader does. In Country, in my opinion, is not YA but literature. Read a lot of YA novels and read Mason's work and you'll see there are drastic differences. Sam's growth, especially when isolated to a small rural town with only TV and radio as blueprints, is slow and uncertain. Sam's not reading an awful lot of literature; she's not exposed to contemporary philosophy--she watches M.A.S.H. episodes, MTV, listens to the radio. She possesses ignorant beliefs. Mason's ability as a writer is convincing the reader of Sam's realism and in recognizing her growth amongst the seemingly endless barrage of pop-culture references. I returned to In Country because I recently read The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a book I found similar in scope and setting. When we compare the two main characters and the typography of their journeys, the difference between the two novels is painfully apparent. Cameron is well-aware she is better than her rural setting; she speaks and thinks much higher than she should. Sam, on the other hand, recognizes something is wrong with her town, but she has difficulty articulating what it is. In the end, both achieve similar epiphanies; I just find Sam's more believable and realistic and more engaging. I'll finish this review with a sampling of Mason's prose within this rich novel. They piled back into the car. Sam stuck her finger in the baby's fist again, and the baby tugged at it as they drove home in the gathering darkness. Irene turned on her headlights, and they glided on, twisting on the back roads, past old farms with remodeled houses. All the houses were near the road, and the barns were leaning, and the silhouetted farm equipment was standing silent and still, looking like outwitted dinosaurs caught dead in their tracks by some asteroids. None of the other farms looked like England.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Thrasher

    Dated. I would have liked to have read this book when it was published, as i was Sam's age exactly at that time. The references to early MTV, Bruce Springsteen, VW bugs, etc. brought back a lot of memories, but I don't think they would transfer to teens today. Sam's dad died in the Vietnam War before she was born. He and her mom had only been married a short while before he deployed. His brother Emmett signed up and deployed to Vietnam after his brother was killed. Sam's mother took care of Emme Dated. I would have liked to have read this book when it was published, as i was Sam's age exactly at that time. The references to early MTV, Bruce Springsteen, VW bugs, etc. brought back a lot of memories, but I don't think they would transfer to teens today. Sam's dad died in the Vietnam War before she was born. He and her mom had only been married a short while before he deployed. His brother Emmett signed up and deployed to Vietnam after his brother was killed. Sam's mother took care of Emmett after his return, even as he brought in hippy war protesters and did things such as hang the VietCong flag from the church tower. Eventually she moved to Lexington, but didn't force teenage Sam to accompany her. So Sam and Emmett take care of one another. Sam is frustrated because the veterans won't talk about their experiences; she so wants to know more about her father. She is concerned Emmett has Agent Orange poisoning, but the VA isn't really helping. He teenage romance is flat, and she finds herself attracted to one of Emmett's buddies. As the story progresses, Sam reunites with her father's parents and gets his diary. In it she finds a much different man than his love letters to her mother showed. She goes through the stages of grief, and eventually the author brings us full circle to the prologue...when the family visits the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ophelia

    This is not a book I would ever have picked out to read on my own. I had to read this for a class and I am so happy I did. Mason has a way of making you feel so close to Sam that you're convinced she's real. Her swirl of emotions - grief, frustration, curiosity, protectiveness, loneliness - is so spot-on for teenage girls. Especially teenage girls who have been through trauma or have grown up in families who've experienced trauma. My bias against books focused on war comes from my assumption tha This is not a book I would ever have picked out to read on my own. I had to read this for a class and I am so happy I did. Mason has a way of making you feel so close to Sam that you're convinced she's real. Her swirl of emotions - grief, frustration, curiosity, protectiveness, loneliness - is so spot-on for teenage girls. Especially teenage girls who have been through trauma or have grown up in families who've experienced trauma. My bias against books focused on war comes from my assumption that they'd all be uber patriotic and glorify veterans as superhumans above criticism. I was totally wrong. In Country gives the naked truth in that the cause of the war had nothing to do with American citizens, and that veterans are generally people duped into risking their life and killing others because the government told them it was the right thing to do. A few veterans in the book were sadistic and cruel while in the war, plain and simple. Most of them just did the jobs they were told to do, and have to live with it for the rest of their lives. They are traumatized. They are physically disabled. They are dealing with the repercussions of Agent Orange and the government denies Agent Orange did any harm to them. Most of all, they are human. This entire novel is so incredibly human. Sam will stay with me forever. Thank you, Professor Reinert, for getting me to read this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    I loved this book about the coming of age of Sam Hughes, a teenage girl whose father died in the Vietnam War before she was born. She lives with her uncle Emmett in Hopewell, KY, a place from which many young soldiers came from during the war. She wants to learn as much as she can about what it was like for her father, Dwayne, as well as Emmett, both of whom were "in country" during the war. Emmett seems to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, or at least Sam is convinced he does. As Sam dis I loved this book about the coming of age of Sam Hughes, a teenage girl whose father died in the Vietnam War before she was born. She lives with her uncle Emmett in Hopewell, KY, a place from which many young soldiers came from during the war. She wants to learn as much as she can about what it was like for her father, Dwayne, as well as Emmett, both of whom were "in country" during the war. Emmett seems to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, or at least Sam is convinced he does. As Sam discovers more about the war, and talks to her uncle's veteran friends, she becomes increasingly angry that the U.S. was ever in the war. Bobbie Ann Mason is a great writer of dialogue. Much of the book takes place through dialogue, as well as through Sam's thoughts and actions, as well as through the TV show MASH and the music of the era, especially the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen. The dialogue captures the cadences and vocabulary of the Kentucky back country. These are people who live hard lives, and Mason depicts them realistically. Sam is a charming character, always questioning what's happening around her, and trying to understand why people are the way they are. She can be harsh with them at times, and her frustration is always brewing beneath the surface. But she never stops searching and asking questions. She is one of my favorite fictional characters ever.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I enjoyed this story even though it was sad to think of this young girl who never knew her father. I have tried to imagine what it was like at war myself but she also wanted to be able to picture what her father experienced. Sam (Samantha) is 17 and she has been asking everyone about Vietnam but no one wants to tell her anything. She gets books from the library but with all the technical language and confusing names she doesn´t learn much and still can´t picture it. She wants to know about Agent I enjoyed this story even though it was sad to think of this young girl who never knew her father. I have tried to imagine what it was like at war myself but she also wanted to be able to picture what her father experienced. Sam (Samantha) is 17 and she has been asking everyone about Vietnam but no one wants to tell her anything. She gets books from the library but with all the technical language and confusing names she doesn´t learn much and still can´t picture it. She wants to know about Agent Orange and wonders if her uncle Emmett was exposed to it. He has bad pimples on his face and neck and she wants him to see a doctor. She worries he might have cancer from it. He won´t get a job or a girlfriend and Sam wants him to live more. Eventually she learns more about the war and her father but she doesn´t like what she learned. Some parts of the book were a bit funny and some where pretty strange, like the dream she had about having a baby. I´m glad I decided to read this even though it is not my usual type of book. I only wish the book told whether Emmett ever did get tested for Agent Orange and the result. Now I´m going to wonder forever.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book was hard to read and it took some time for me to figure out where it was going BUT once I did I found it hard to put down. It is a story of a small town in a poor area of our country. Many of the young men volunteered to go to a war they felt was justified. The story starts with a trip to Washington DC and their car problems along the way.....then it goes back to the town...all the young men who returned damaged from the war...with physical complaints, seclusionist behaviors, the inabi This book was hard to read and it took some time for me to figure out where it was going BUT once I did I found it hard to put down. It is a story of a small town in a poor area of our country. Many of the young men volunteered to go to a war they felt was justified. The story starts with a trip to Washington DC and their car problems along the way.....then it goes back to the town...all the young men who returned damaged from the war...with physical complaints, seclusionist behaviors, the inability to adjust physically and mentally...A girl, Sam begins to ask questions about her father's role in the war....she never knew him and traveled to her grandmother's house to try to get info...Her grandmother gave her an old diary from the war....Through that she came to know her father and also a glimpse of what the young men in the town had endured. She spent a night in seclusion by a swamp where she experienced what it felt like to be alone, scared etc. The book ends where it began on the trip to Washington DC to the Vietnam Veteran's wall of Honor.....

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Harris

    The value of this read provides emotional and historical context to a situation, and there are many elements involved in the story to keep the modern reader reading. For example, there is a lot of female empowerment within this story, which is very important in the study of American history and literature: “You have to go to college, Sam. Women can do anything they want now, just about” (167). There is this emphasis on what women can do, however, the conversation seems to continuously revolve ar The value of this read provides emotional and historical context to a situation, and there are many elements involved in the story to keep the modern reader reading. For example, there is a lot of female empowerment within this story, which is very important in the study of American history and literature: “You have to go to college, Sam. Women can do anything they want now, just about” (167). There is this emphasis on what women can do, however, the conversation seems to continuously revolve around the context of college. College seems to be used as a gateway to female empowerment according to this novel. It is one of the concepts that would make for an extremely interesting discussion within the classroom, such as whether or not the students believe that this is the gateway to empowerment? Is Sam relinquishing her rights by not going to college? What does this book seem to say about Dawn in terms of female empowerment? Would you consider Anita and Irene to be empowered?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Just finished reading the book “IN COUNTRY” by BOBBIE ANN MASON. I read this book while listening to the audible version narrated by JILL BRENNAN. It is #43 in my AROUND THE YEAR IN 52 BOOKS CLUB (An underrated book, a hidden gem or a lesser known book). Samantha Hughes lives with her uncle, Emmett Smith, in a small Kentucky town. After her high school graduation, she decides not to join her mother Irene in Lexington, but instead stays with Emmett, whose mental and physical health have been affe Just finished reading the book “IN COUNTRY” by BOBBIE ANN MASON. I read this book while listening to the audible version narrated by JILL BRENNAN. It is #43 in my AROUND THE YEAR IN 52 BOOKS CLUB (An underrated book, a hidden gem or a lesser known book). Samantha Hughes lives with her uncle, Emmett Smith, in a small Kentucky town. After her high school graduation, she decides not to join her mother Irene in Lexington, but instead stays with Emmett, whose mental and physical health have been affected by his experiences in the Vietnam War. Samantha's father, Dwayne, died in Vietnam before she was born, and she hopes to learn more about him from her traumatized uncle. I absolutely loved this book. I am married to a VIETNAM VETERAN, and I loved the way the author describes what families go through as well as the veterans who survived this war. The movie was very well done also with Emily Lloyd playing Sam and Bruce Willis playing Emmett.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Byrne

    Sam, the main character in this novel, leads a very small country life in Kentucky. But her uncle, Everett, had been to Viet Nam and wouldn’t talk about it to Sam’s satisfaction. Her father had also died there, and Sam being an imaginative young woman, found ways to explore her uncle’s and her father’s Viet Nam experiences. She also falls for an older man, Tom, who is apparently physically unable to have sex with her, and her mind crowds itself with thoughts of why that is and why Everett doesn’ Sam, the main character in this novel, leads a very small country life in Kentucky. But her uncle, Everett, had been to Viet Nam and wouldn’t talk about it to Sam’s satisfaction. Her father had also died there, and Sam being an imaginative young woman, found ways to explore her uncle’s and her father’s Viet Nam experiences. She also falls for an older man, Tom, who is apparently physically unable to have sex with her, and her mind crowds itself with thoughts of why that is and why Everett doesn’t have a girlfriend - maybe he is also impotent. She is obsessed with stories of Agent Orange and imagines that it causes impotence (which it may - I don’t know enough about it), along with acne and other disorders suffered by her uncle and other Viet Nam Vets. Finally she, Everett and Sam’s father’s mother take a trip in Sam’s VW to Washington DC to visit the Viet Nam Memorial and gain some relief from their sorrows.

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