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In Country

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,920 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
The author's highly acclaimed debut novel
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published September 1st 1985 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1985)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Adam
Feb 02, 2010 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unless the reviewers have a deep personal connection with the main character's situation, I can really see no justification for saying this is by any means a good book.
The dialog is horrible and robotic.
The pop-culture references are forced, overabundant, and presented poorly. (i.e. "It sounds like the domino theory...I read about the domino theory in school." The author gives no description of what the domino theory is, so it seems understood that the theory is common knowledge, but then the m
...more
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
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Tara
Aug 13, 2012 Tara rated it really liked it
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
...more
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
...more
Anne
Feb 08, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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, ...more
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
...more
Ed
Jan 10, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alisa
Aug 20, 2014 Alisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, book-club
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 ...more
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 ...more
Curt Bozif
Jan 01, 2011 Curt Bozif rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, vietnam, war
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 ...more
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.
Introvertigo
Mar 01, 2016 Introvertigo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a recommendation from a friend, so I tried multiple times to finish it. After the third time of picking it up and daydreaming, I decided it wasn't worth the mental anguish. I hate to leave things unfinished, but this book unfortunately goes on that list.

So, hear my review with the undertone of:
*I DID NOT READ THE ENTIRE BOOK*

I made it about halfway through. I think maybe it was a combination of a generational disconnect and extremely lacking dialogue. I don't know anyone (nor did
...more
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 ...more
christopher
i read a review that said this book was really shitty.

i liked the back cover, which was a passage from the book that was slightly edited. i think the edited passage was good, i thought something like "i would write like the edited passage, not the passage from the book" when i read the passage in the book and compared the two. i dont think i meant that as one being better than the other.

i felt like the book kind of just rolls along for a while, and u get involved with it and its good. then there
...more
gaudeo
Mar 21, 2016 gaudeo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anesa
Jan 14, 2014 Anesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mason's major novel concerns a high school senior named Samantha whose father died very young in Viet Nam, never having seen his infant daughter. Samantha's mother has recently fled small-town Kentucky after mothering her own brother, an alienated Viet Nam vet, for many years. Sam now lives with this unfortunate uncle and attempts to fill her mother's vacated shoes.

Most of the book is devoted to Sam's efforts at getting any- and everyone around her to open up about the war experience. These pass
...more
Bill
May 03, 2014 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So very OK. Probably my own Northeast liberal bias coming through, but between that and knowing exactly four people who served in Vietnam, I found it much more interesting to look at the book as a cultural study of the Midwest than anything else. The only likeable character was Everett, but even he lapses into what is now almost a caricature of PTSD/the tortured vet. I just feel bad for Sam, whose idea of excitement seems to be hitting the mall. I think chasing The Bean Trees with this may have ...more
Susan Emmet
Jul 16, 2014 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A re-read after many years.
I love the story of Sam and Emmett and all the others.
To find out the truth of your past by not talking and by talking is profound.
Going away, staying at home, yearning to be somewhere else despite...
profound.
So much to think about and absorb.
Why war? Why can't people talk? Why do they leave? Why do they dig? Why can't we capture the truth? Why do people get stuck? What can they do beyond going into the swamp that is the stuff and symbol of so much?
A fine book, no doub
...more
Brett Thomasson
Jan 08, 2016 Brett Thomasson rated it it was amazing
Bret Easton Ellis was 21 when Less Than Zero was published and Jay McInerney 34 when Bright Lights, Big City came out. Bobbie Ann Mason, by contrast, was already 45 when her first novel, In Country, was released in 1985, following a successful collection of short stories. Being older probably gave her a head start on reflecting on the human condition, since she'd had some more of it in her life.

In the summer of 1984, a year of Springsteen and Michael Jackson, Samantha "Sam" Hughes graduates from
...more
jimtown
Jan 24, 2015 jimtown rated it it was amazing
In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason

I already knew this was a five star book when I started reading it. I'd read it a long time ago before I started doing book reviews to keep me from selecting books I'd already read from the library. I have only one shelf in my home library dedicated to fiction I've already read and In Country was one of those few selected books that I had to keep. The shelf is full of memorable books that were either super enjoyable, extremely well written, inspiring or just hit so
...more
Ron
Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Readers of Nancy Drew (and Bobbie Ann Mason's scholarly analysis of the well-read series of "girl mysteries") will recognize the underlying structure of this wonderful novel about the aftermath of Vietnam. Set in a rural Southern community, the story follows the attempt of its young heroine Sam to solve the mystery of her father, who died before she knew him, a casualty of the war. Meanwhile, her curiosity is piqued by her uncle Emmett who did return from that war, but is still haunted by it and ...more
Freddy Olvera
Mar 09, 2013 Freddy Olvera is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-country
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brendan
Feb 10, 2013 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reaction to the book is just what I thought it would be in terms of what it would be about. Mason writes about an 18 year old girl whose father had died before she was born in the Vietnam War. The novel takes place in a small town in Kentucky and in the time period of the mid-80’s culture. This then begins with her journey of trying to regain her past of her father from the only man that knows his secrets, Emmett.

I really connected to this novel well. My great-grandfather, who served in Wor
...more
Caroline
Jan 25, 2009 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure why, but this is my first Bobbie Ann Mason; won't be my last. In Country may not be perfectly crafted (I could see how one might have a few complaints, like about an incident in the last scene). But I don't have those complaints--really, I'd be hard pressed to criticize anything--maybe because I got so involved it. The issues, the setting, the characters were all really important and identifiable to me--this is the first novel I've felt completely personally connected with in quite a wh ...more
Written Melodies
2.5 stars

Full review: http://whatstheword-saywhaaat.blogspo...

I originally read this book in 2012.

I'm glad I decided to reread In Country. This time I understood Sam a little bit better. In my initial read, I found her annoying to the point of dislike. Though I still think Sam's irksome, I empathize with her search for truth. I identify with Sam's frustration as she hits brick wall after brick wall. I understand her feelings of abandonment upon her mother's remarriage, move to Lexington, and new
...more
Christina
How does one go about facing the ugly truth about ourselves and others? I actually cried both times that I read this book. A young girl's search for her father's identity as she searches for her own is so effectively told here. Mom has finally gone off to start a new life as her teenaged daughter, Sam, her war-wounded (soul-wise) brother and a paternal grandmother set off to see the Vietnam memorial in D.C. when the book opens. The story of how they ever get to the beginning of this unbalanced r ...more
Rick
Jul 04, 2015 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sometimes I think my whole generation has a kind of PTSD. But let's call it Post Viet Nam Stress Disorder. The story of Sam and Emmett (In Country) brings out some of the pain and heartache. I couldn't put it down. Emmett, a Viet Nam war vet, says, "There's something wrong with me. I'm damaged." (p. 225) We were all damaged in a way, those who protested, those who stayed home, family members of vets, and those who went "in country." That war is still with us, isn't it?
William Freeman
Jul 07, 2014 William Freeman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saw the movie many years ago and enjoyed it immensely. It was a very faithful adaptation of the book moving the reader/viewer to a very moving finale. My only nitpick with the book is the descriptions of always opening a pepsi or the clothes but I thought that was perhaps the author portraying the boredom the banality of small town middle America. Do you read if you get the chance
Two-fisted History
I had to read this in 12th Grade after I stood up and protested being forced to read depressing books throughout High School and proclaiming that, no matter the consequences, I would no longer read 'The Bell Jar.'

For what it's worth, it was much better than reading Sylvia Plath. It was still a 'depressing' novel, but give the alternative, it was tolerable.
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Bobbie Ann Mason has won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her books include In Country and Feather Crowns. She lives in Kentucky.
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