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In the Country

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These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere—and, sometimes, turning back again.

A pharmacist living in New York smuggles drugs to his ailing father in Manila, only to discover alarming truths about his family and his past. In Bahrain, a Filipina teacher drawn to a special pupil finds, to her surprise, that she is questioning her own marriage. A college student leans on her brother, a laborer in Saudi Arabia, to support her writing ambitions, without realizing that his is the life truly made for fiction. And in the title story, a journalist and a nurse face an unspeakable trauma amidst the political turmoil of the Philippines in the 1970s and ’80s.

In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s powerful debut collection explores the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. Deeply compassionate and richly felt, In the Country marks the emergence of a formidable new writer.

347 pages, Hardcover

First published June 16, 2015

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About the author

Mia Alvar

2 books158 followers
Mia Alvar’s collection of short stories, In the Country, won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the University of Rochester’s Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award.

Mia has been a writer in residence at the Corporation of Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Blue Mountain Center for the Arts. She has received fellowships from the Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and Sirenland Writers’ Conferences. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, One Story, The Missouri Review, the Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere.

Born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain and the United States, Mia graduated from Harvard College and the School of the Arts at Columbia University. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 518 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,586 reviews1,984 followers
May 22, 2015
I usually prefer novels to story collections. I am a person who likes to dive deep instead of dabble. But there are some collections that do dive deeper than many novels out there, and In the Country is one of them.

I don't know if I've ever given 5 stars to a story collection. And I don't remember ever reading a collection I loved as much as this one. In broad strokes, it's comparable to other recent collections I enjoyed that look at one culture through a variety of different lenses: The Frangipani Hotel and Vietnam; Oye What I'm Gonna Tell You and Cuba. From Alvar I learned a lot about Filipino culture and history, she tells a variety of stories from Filipinos and expats that let you look at the country and society from inside and outside. All these different characters create a wonderful kaleidoscope of stories.

But what's so spectacular is that there is no weak link. Every story here is incredibly strong. You finish reading one and have to stop and soak it in silently for a while. Then you start the next, only to find that Alvar has somehow managed to take you on an equally exhilarating but totally different ride. There are some characters who pop up more than once. There are the same political upheavals that echo through the stories, sometimes in the background and sometimes right in your face.

These stories are often traditionally told, and I admit I'm a sucker for the short-story-with-epiphany structure that I learned about way back in high school. But you don't need to be. Alvar is so talented and these stories hit you in the deepest depths of your soul.

I read this book on a plane. Because I couldn't stop reading. Normally on a plane I read fast-moving YA books or page-turning thrillers. But I skipped them because I wanted nothing more than to read this book even if it meant that the people sitting next to me wondered why I kept weeping.

A truly beautiful and amazing book. I'm so excited to see what Alvar does next.
Profile Image for Rachel.
578 reviews66 followers
August 19, 2022
Mia Alvar's debut story collection came out in paperback this year and though I don't remember hearing about it much last year when it debuted, it suddenly was everywhere I turned so I felt compelled to pick it up. I'm certainly glad I did.

These short stories aren't by any means 'light.' Some of the stories, such as the final one in the collection, are pretty heavy. But this collection feels important and is certainly worth reading. Mia Alvar is a talented, beautiful writer and some of these stories have the power to break your heart.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
265 reviews238 followers
June 3, 2018
I first read this short story collection back in 2015, sometime in the summer before I started college. Ever since then, I’ve remembered Mia Alvar’s debut as one of my favorite books ever, though I couldn’t quite recall why. To be honest, my “fave” ranking stemmed from this rush of goosebumps and adrenaline and nostalgia for all the emotions I went through while reading it, more so than actual literary memories. It’s safe to say that three-ish years later, despite my otherwise questionable high school taste, this collection stands strong.

It’s funny to mention time, because Alvar makes it fly by so quickly, but smoothly—you will not know you are hundreds of pages into this book, except that you will feel like you’ve lived hundreds of years with these characters. In the stories, no time passes at all, while everything between characters changes in a single interaction. Breadwinners move across the globe, but are everyday fixtures in the lives of those they support back home. Her stories are broad in scope, but always sensitive to the otherwise forgotten characters, and hyper aware of their innermost fears. Not only does Alvar focus on the people who would be “supporting characters” in any other story (an exiled politician’s longsuffering wife instead of the man himself, or a young student writing vicariously through her older brother’s escapades in Manila and Saudi Arabia), but she shows us their life with detail other tales miss—their guilt, indulgence, and reluctant moments of joy.

I think I enjoy this collection not just because of how each story operates individually, but because of how successfully they build off one another. With the exception of some linked collections, I don’t usually pay much attention to which short story comes after another; most times, it feels like the authors don’t, either. From the beginning of In The Country, however, each story seems to be helping the other along. To understand why many Filipinos living in Bahrain cling to their class values (and despise those who don’t) in “Shadow Families,” we need to see the stringent adherence to these societal groups in “The Virgin of Monte Ramon,” set back in the country. We are introduced to the idea of “OFWs” from the very first story, and each new one connects the many dots of Filipinos who must labor abroad. To me, the most beautiful pairing here is between “Old Girl” and “In the Country,” the two stories most concerned with affairs of state. They both focus on the great domestic and emotional labor asked of women married to “men of the people,” and it is not quite a spoiler to say that the seemingly unremarkable Old Girl, a replica of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, reappears as an important political figure by the time of “In the Country.”

This is another joy—Alvar infuses some of the key moments of (recent?) Filipino political history, without assigning you a list of vocabulary words and key terms to research before diving in. You can avoid Googling Ninoy Aquino’s assassination or the EDSA Revolution and still viscerally connect to characters’ on-the-ground, non-mythical experiences of these events. Alvar anchors her stories not in grave political stakes, but in the unreasonable idealism of these “great revolutionary men,” which often makes their domestic politics insufferable. Her gentle cynicism exposes the antics of some of the Philippines’ “beloved Catholic martyrs”, and the sober heroism of the masses behind them.

I would suggest reading these stories once to focus on the small names (or names not yet made “big”), and again while gathering the necessary historical and social context for this world. There are so many small moments to consider and reconsider, that you’ll certainly want to read it again, and get the full story Alvar is trying to tell us about life in (and around) her country.
Profile Image for Mary.
423 reviews771 followers
January 27, 2016
This collection contains 8 short stories and 1 novella concerning the Filipino diaspora. The stories ranged from engrossing to average, but overall I’m giving the collection a 4 because I was engaged throughout. The stories are character-driven and deeply personal. Most involve secrets or class distinction; all involve loneliness.

Stand outs for me were Shadow Families, The Miracle Worker, The Virgin of Monte Ramon and The Kontrabida.

I hope Alvar is working on a novel!

**I received this book from the publisher through the Goodreads Giveaways program.
Profile Image for Nadia.
Author 15 books3,191 followers
February 6, 2017
I don't typically read short stories - my loss. This collection of globe trotting short stories is marvelous. They are rich, informative, surprising and so smartly told. Revolution, love, revenge - they're all here. I've had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion with Mia Alvar, which makes it all the more enjoyable to read her work.
Profile Image for Thomas.
21 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2015
I'm in the minority on this one. Everyone else seems to find these stories surprising and compelling. Not me. If it had been a novel, I probably would have stuck it out to the end, resenting the time I was spending. But because it's a collection of short stories, it was easy for me just to stop after 3 or 4. I found the stories completely unsurprising, and I felt that they had nothing interesting to say. Alvar writes in a style that seems to me inexplicably popular these days. When she's not attending writing seminars, she must be filling notebooks with ideas for metaphors — but no ideas for plots. I almost didn't make it past the first page, on which the narrator refers to her mother's "teaspoon-shaped face." I kept picturing a small Filipina with a long handle sticking out of the top of her head. I kinda wish I had stopped on page 1.
Profile Image for Thor Balanon.
97 reviews17 followers
November 3, 2016
Each of the eight stories begins with Filipino stereotypes then Alvar turns them around in the end, mostly surprising, always thoughtful. Representation is important and "In The Country" is an unflinching look at the culture we shape as we wander around the globe. But it is the titular novella that is (heartbreakingly) beautiful and memorable. With the time jumps, Alvar is able to sketch a portrait of a family through the years of political turmoil. It resounds more today as the Philippines searches for its humanity.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
June 4, 2015
We're Not in Manila Anymore

I didn’t know what to expect with “In the Country” but was pleasantly surprised with this group of stories which all relate to the Philippines in some way even if they’re not set there. There’s a lot of history mixed in with the personal tales of the characters. The Philippines is a network of interrelated islands (over 7,000 islands!) with lots of different languages spoken and even though Tagalog and English are the official tongues there are sometimes language barriers even within the country. One amazing thing is how many Philippine natives live and work outside their country. Until I read “In the Country” I had no idea how many of their citizens lived and worked in the Middle East in the 70’s and 80’s. Living in LA of course I’ve seen firsthand the number of nurses come from the Philippines.

Many of the stories attest to what it’s like to live away from home and to give ¼ or ½ or more of their earnings back to loved ones at home while living in apartments with multiple roommates. Alvar’s stories give a face and emotion to these experiences. She shows the necessity of distance as well as how their experiences change their perspectives.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC.
Profile Image for Jaymee.
Author 1 book36 followers
June 3, 2016
The stories are well-crafted, but there is nothing here that hasn't been written before (Brainard, Rosca, even Hagedorn, Ty-Casper). I can't even say it's a new style, so I can't agree with the "new voice" blurb(s). My main problem is that the stories are filled with stereotypes and stock characters, not to mention the fact that the places never really come alive. I got tired of the title story, which is a bit tragic as it's also the closing story of the book.
Profile Image for Nicholas Sparks.
Author 226 books223k followers
January 13, 2016
This debut collection features evocative stories that follow Filipinos going through myriad life experiences in places scattered across the map.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,108 reviews1,168 followers
March 15, 2019
4.5 stars

This is a brilliant story collection, full of tales from the Philippines and their diaspora. The author is one of those literary writers who does a fantastic job at creating characters, with distinct personalities and psychological complexity, in just a few pages. The stories tend to focus on the characters’ personal journeys, and are sometimes quietly brutal, but stand out for the vividness of the characters and of the author’s imagery. I finished this a couple of weeks ago, and took my time reading it, but most of the stories still stand out clearly in my mind. The author’s writing is also excellent, and has a certain weight to it that will keep you from breezing right through: every word has meaning and is there because it needs to be. It’s by no means dense, but it’s solid literature, the kind of writing that loses nothing when you re-read it.

Because I often look for others’ reactions to specific short stories as I finish them, here are my mini-reviews, in order of appearance:

“The Kontrabida”: A young man working in New York returns to the Philippines to visit his abusive father, who is seriously ill, and his apparently saintly mother. To my mind this is one of the best in the collection, deliberate and atmospheric, with a whammy at the end.

“The Miracle Worker”: A young special ed teacher, living in Bahrain with her husband, is approached by a wealthy Arab woman who has unrealistic dreams for her severely disabled child. This is also one of the best, complex and surprisingly dark, leaving a certain awful secret to be fleshed out by the reader, and with a final image that stuck with me long after finishing.

“Legends of the White Lady”: An American model with some personal issues visits the Philippines for a shoot. My least favorite of the collection, this story is lightweight compared to the rest, but it still feels grounded in authentic experience.

“Shadow Families”: A community of newly-well-off Philippine wives in Bahrain includes less-fortunate immigrants from their country in social events, but these include a challenging young woman who’s more interested in their husbands than their friendship. This story is told in the first-person plural – there’s a “we” but no “I” – and none of the many wives included in that “we,” or their husbands, really stand out. Meanwhile, it goes on too long, as if an epilogue had been appended to a short story.

“The Virgin of Monte Ramon”: A boy in a wheelchair befriends a girl from the local shantytown and learns a disturbing secret about his own family. This is a perfectly fine story, though not my favorite.

“Esmeralda”: A cleaner in New York, who works hard but has a difficult life, falls for a lonely banker in the World Trade Center when she cleans his office. This one is told in the second person, which I usually hate and which literary writers seem to need to get out of their systems . . . but the story is strong enough to shine despite that (or perhaps even because of it). It’s vivid, memorable, and does a great of splicing together different timelines even in a short space.

“Old Girl”: Set in Boston, this is taken from the life of Corazon Aquino, who became a major figure in Philippine history, though you might not have guessed it from the meek wife here who caters to her flamboyant and ambitious husband. You don’t need to know anything about her to make sense of the story (though if you do, it won’t spoil the story and will add resonance to it). The family dynamics are carefully observed and the characters have no less complexity than if the author had had free rein to create them herself.

“A Contract Overseas”: A college student from an impoverished family is supported by her beloved brother, who takes a job in Saudi Arabia, but she can’t save him from his own problems. This is a vivid story with strong characters and realistic emotions, but I wanted a little more from the end.

“In the Country”: At about 85 pages, this is closer to a novella than a short story. It switches between two timelines – a young nurse who fights for better pay and marries an ambitious journalist, and that same woman later, after a devastating loss. This story fleshes out a lot about the recent history of the Philippines, and provides the context for “Old Girl.” It is quite good; the history perhaps overshadows the characters at times, but it’s fair to say that the two can’t be entirely separated for people whose lives are so tied up in history.

Overall, this is a great, well-written, well-observed collection of stories. I am definitely interested in reading more from this author.
Profile Image for Holly.
367 reviews68 followers
July 17, 2017
In the Country is a fantastic debut from Filipina-American writer Mia Alvar. These nine stories are windows into the Filipino diaspora through time and space and fight and flight; Manila to Bahrain to Boston to New York, poverty to working class to privileged elite, the politically-agnostic to the revolutionary. My favorite stories, "Shadow Families" and "The Virgin of Monte Ramon," bring us deep into Filipino communal life, and Alvar shines her brightest when she's taking us through the interwoven topics of home and gossip.
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.

FYI: "Legends of the White Lady" is available to read for free on lithub.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,362 reviews103 followers
July 12, 2015
“As the typhoon of history made landfall on their doorstep, she could train her eyes on this sane man, and follow him.”

“Fiction didn't have a prayer over facts like that.”

There is a new literary voice in town. Fans of Ms. Lahiri rejoice. In these nine remarkable stories, the “Country” in the title is the Philippines and we get the Filipino experience, from many different perspectives and locales, including Manilla, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and America. I did not know there was such a large Filipino presence in the middle-east, but I do now.
These are cultural stories, about home, displacement, social class and matters of the heart, told in tight, insightful, prose. There is also a touch of dark and edgy, which I always admire.

Alvar was born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain and the United States. This is her debut collection and what a stunning entrance.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,338 reviews440 followers
April 19, 2015
Who knew that a debut book of short stories regarding the experiences of Philipinas would be so compelling, so readable, so enlightening. This is a population not commonly written about, and the wealth of information and insight presented here are remarkable. To underscore the communal experience, several stories are written in second person, involving the reader and providing understanding and empathy. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews487 followers
Shelved as 'it-s-not-you-it-s-me'
January 6, 2016
the first two stories are outstanding. later, there are some weaker stories. i gave up at the multi-part story about... man i can't remember.

what's absolutely brilliant in the first two stories is the interweaving of a main narrative with a secondary narrative which doesn't get explored much but haunts the story regardless. this gives the story's protagonist such depth. i think mia alvar may be a new alice munro. long stories, multi-layered plots, brilliance.
Profile Image for arabela.
73 reviews27 followers
June 15, 2022
Each story felt so raw and profound, and this book reminded me so much of my childhood days spent with my Lola and mom, reading and sharing stories and tales with me. This book somewhat felt close to home.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,591 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2020
Each of the nine stories of the Filipino diaspora were quite engaging and often left me wanting more. The central characters were a mixture of ages, sexes, wealth or in another country based on work, career, marriage or exile. There were mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. The stories looked at life for those who find themselves in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the US, or those back in the Phillipines with a family member in one of those countries. Overall this collection is very entertaining and educational.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,705 followers
February 23, 2017
A very strong and powerful short story collection. Each story is so powerfully imagined it feels like it has the weight of a whole novel behind it. Her characterisation, her writing, her variations in voice, in setting and theme, are absolutely brilliant. I especially love how she used smaller domestic moments to capture the history and culture of the Philippines. A thoroughly brilliant read!
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 53 books550 followers
October 6, 2015
Eight short stories and a novella. An astonishing debut collection and a welcome exploration of the Filipino diaspora. Some truly remarkable and diverse stories. Lovely writing from an exciting new voice.
Profile Image for rachel.
745 reviews142 followers
July 8, 2020
Every short story collection has its filler stories here and there. In the Country is one of the very few collections I've read that I can say felt like it had no filler. Every story here was so well plotted, with foreshadowing leading to events the reader has come to expect, yet that conclusion still comes with an earned emotional impact. As a writer, I tend to gush adjectives and adverbs, so I particularly admired the way Alvar doesn't waste a word. Reading her work on a line by line basis had me marveling at the precise craft of every sentence.

My personal favorite story here is "A Contract Overseas," which ends on the most perfect, achy note you'd find regarding a family tragedy. Tremendous.
Profile Image for SibylM.
327 reviews28 followers
July 31, 2015
Four and a half stars. I don't usually care for short stories at all, but this collection is getting such great reviews from people that I trust, that I really had to read it. And I am so glad I did! Mia Alvar does a terrific job of writing different characters -- young, old, male, female, rich, poor. Each story is really like a little novel on its own -- so much depth to the characters and the stories. Because I do prefer novels, I'll say I hope she's working on one right now.
Profile Image for Cari.
386 reviews25 followers
August 6, 2017
The stories in this debut collection about the Filipino diaspora are deeply moving; "Esmeralda" especially took my breath away. Can't wait to read more from Alvar, who went to my high school (Marymount pride!).
Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,590 reviews75 followers
April 24, 2019
I read this excellent book of short stories to help prepare for a trip to the Philippines. All the stories look at different ways that poverty, past colonization and oppression affect the people just trying to live their lives day by day. She looks at what it's like to emigrate and then return in several different ways. In "The Kontribida", a doctor comes home to Manila to see his mother after his father dies. He notices all the little things that he never gave a second thought to, and realizes how his newfound financial security has alienated him from his former life. In the tiny store that his mother runs in front of their house, detergent is sold by the individual packet because people can't afford to buy a whole box. In such small ways are people disadvantaged further by being in poverty. They can't take advantage of economies of scale because they can't afford to buy at a larger scale. In "The Miracle Worker", a young therapist living in Bahrain with her husband is hired by a wealthy mother with a disabled child. The story explores, among other things, how leaving behind one's home in order to gain wealth leads to a feeling of isolation, especially one with social stratification as severe as Bahrain (or, I suspect, the USA). The story that affected me most was one about a boy in a wheelchair who had been led to believe by his mother that his disability was for special, almost supernatural reasons. This boy was isolated at school until he met a girl just as isolated as he was, although for different reasons. This one was a punch in the gut.
There are also stories about what it was like to live under the repressive Marco regime and even one that I believe is from the viewpoint of Imelda Marcos.
Mia Alvar moves effortlessly between viewpoints and each story's voice felt true. She writes about the pain of living in a repressed and disadvantaged country which is still feeling the reverberations of a colonized history. So many people sacrifice so much just to survive and to help their families. The stories are about how we lie to others and to ourselves in order to keep going. There's a lot of compassion in these stories, a lot of pain. I'm not much of a short story reader, but I feel really fortunate that I stretched myself and tried this book. This is an extremely talented author and I'll be on the lookout for more of her stuff.
Profile Image for Li Sian.
420 reviews48 followers
July 9, 2017
This is one of the best books I have read thus far in 2017. (To emphasise how big of a deal this is, I never enjoy short stories as much as I do novels but there was not a single dull spot in this and each and every story was compelling.) In the Country is a collection of short stories about various members of the Filipino diaspora or family members of those who are amongst them.

Honestly, this collection is almost a little hard to review - the best comparison is perhaps to Jhumpa Lahiri (but if you do not enjoy Lahiri, perhaps because every second character has a PhD, there is still a good chance you will love this collection), in that each story is perfectly self-contained and displays a great deal of technique. Or perhaps to the best examples of fiction about immigration? (Americanah.) But again, it's really hard to think of a hook. Each story is perfect and so there are no strong points (which has the downside of making the collection sound a little dull, which it is not). If I had to choose my favourite in this collection, I'd pick the story about the university student who is encouraged in her writing endeavours by her brother, a laborer in Saudi Arabia, for the sheer love and tragedy that plays out in it. But honestly - they're all wonderful. JUST READ IT.
Profile Image for Kirat Kaur.
288 reviews23 followers
August 11, 2017
The greatest tragedy of this book is that no one has heard of Mia Alvar, who should surely be counted among the best short story writers today. Each of these stories is vividly told, cleverly subverted and told in the most beautiful combination of words. Every time I thought I'd found my favourite, the next one came along and rivalled its predecessor for perfection. The kinds of people Alvar is writing about, the types of stories she tells, are the ones we need to hear the most.
Profile Image for Ann.
1,055 reviews39 followers
May 16, 2019
Gets better after the third story; the first three were a tad template-y. I liked the stories mentioning Bahrain and the last two which were historical fiction about the Aquinos and martial law. I'm giving an extra star for the all-women POV.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,300 reviews
October 29, 2015
I feel a little unfair rating this collection, since I can't remember what came in the beginning. Don't get me wrong - I liked the first few stories of the collection well enough. But the last two, those were the best of the collection, the ones that brought the bloody past of Philippines into stark focus.

Old Girl seems like nothing much when reading it, but if you weigh it against the very real last months of Benigno Aquino Jr., and what that last paragraph signifies against reality, it takes on a very different meaning. I'm not naïve enough to assume Ninoy Aquino had no faults. In fact, the author makes it clear that his own household had differences of opinions with him, but it still makes a point, it still makes it clear that Philippines was done with Marcos at the time.

Speaking of, the last story, the one that shares the title with the collection, is about an idealistic reporter and his helpmeet of a wife, suffering under Marcos and his Martial Law. The reporter is, in addition to being idealistic, also arrogant. He's not beyond pushing buttons that he normally would not have, since he's secure in having a small but significant connection to Marcos. He pays for this, of course, a rather hefty price. It's his wife's story, her perspective, and it proves (to me, at least) how hard it is to stand for ideals when there's so much to lose. I'm not even sure I admired him in the end.

The rest of the collection belongs to the diaspora - the immigrant stories. While they are all good in their own right, it's not something unheard of. Other diasporas have similar stories to tell. As for my two favorites, even if dictators are also dime a dozen, it still touches me when I read about individual madmen and the people who suffered under them. So. 4 stars because the rest of the stories lost their shine when I read the last two.
Profile Image for Doug Dosdall.
242 reviews2 followers
October 4, 2016
A lovely and touching book of mostly long stories. The characters are compelling, fully realized and complex. Moral questions are at the heart of many of the stories and the author gives us no easy answers. The settings in the Philippines and among Filipinos living in the Middle East and US gave me an insight into the life of these communities and made me want to read more about Filipino history. There are politics mixed into several of these stories which at first I found not quite as successful as the personal stories which weren't quite so obviously set against a historical backdrop. But in the end I think they just required a little more concentration and maybe would have been better read on paper instead of by audiobook as I read this. The two audiobook readers were excellent though.
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