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347 pages, Hardcover
First published June 16, 2015
The gaps between sound economy and the unemployment lines stretching to Saudi Arabia and America; between secure nation and the bombs that seemed to go off every other day in Manila—these were the spaces she and her neighbors lived in.Alvar also succeeds in her more contemporary selections, "The Kontrabida" and "Legends of the White Lady," two stories which juxtapose the storied American Way of Life with Filipino tradition and superstition. The final entry, "In the Country," is a novella about the competing interests of country and family, a fiercely-written political tale which somehow encompasses all of the underlying themes Alvar addressed through her first eight stories, a sort of grand thesis tying up this collection with tape and string.
"In the country things are different," said Milagros.Alvar's writing can be inconsistent and, at times, confusing: she often refuses to fill in the blanks for her audience, a stylistic choice that can produce fractured narratives (this is most apparent in my least-favorite story, "Old Girl"). But what at first appears to be a debut writer getting her bearings soon reveals itself to be an admirable, calculated subtlety which manages to be both adventurous and tranquil. And that's what I think In the Country is about: the storms, both physical and mental, that we fight through alone, while the world around us stays mostly the same.