Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In the Country” as Want to Read:
In the Country
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In the Country

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,267 ratings  ·  461 reviews
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
Hardcover, 347 pages
Published June 16th 2015 by Knopf
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,267 ratings  ·  461 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of In the Country
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I went into this short story collection with few expectations. The draw for me was that this collection was purported to be about character-driven stories focusing on Filipinas from every walk of life. During the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with a number of Filipinas and wanted to know more about the culture.

Much to my delight, In the Country is a confidently written – scratch that, at times, stunning written – debut novel with a writer who is primed to take her place w
Jessica Woodbury
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 Frangi
Rachel León
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 st
Jan 06, 2017 added it
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. ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016, giveaways
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
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
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 att ...more
Thor Balanon
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 sear ...more
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 ...more
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 barri
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. ...more
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 e ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
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 m
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 interwo ...more
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: story-collection
“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
Kasa Cotugno
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.
Nicholas Sparks
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This debut collection features evocative stories that follow Filipinos going through myriad life experiences in places scattered across the map.
Jul 29, 2015 marked it as read-enough
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.
Katie Lumsden
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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!
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc-author
3.5 Stars
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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. ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!). ...more
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Li Sian
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Kirat Kaur
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-atw-80
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. ...more
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
Doug Dosdall
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 successfu ...more
John Huppenthal
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Up until the final novella-length story, I really thought that this would be just a pretty good short story collection. But man oh man does that last story hit you like a truck. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and profound, the last story only works as well as it does because of the stories that precede it. Each story works well on it's own, but together, what's accomplished here is astounding. I really can't overstate how affecting this collection was. I cannot wait to read what Mia Alvar does next. ...more
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mia Alvar's lived experiences clearly inform this interesting short story collection. I would seek future writing of hers out. This short story collection, like many, was somewhat uneven, with beginnings that were nearly uniformly better than their endings. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: In the Country - Mia Alvar - 4 stars 1 12 Nov 06, 2019 06:11PM  
Mentor Texts: Mentor Texts 1 3 May 01, 2018 03:00PM  
Play Book Tag: In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar - 4 stars 1 12 Apr 20, 2016 03:04PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • America Is Not the Heart
  • Monstress
  • America Is in the Heart: A Personal History
  • The Body Papers
  • Insurrecto
  • Gun Dealers' Daughter
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles
  • Patron Saints of Nothing
  • Home Remedies
  • Lolas' House: Filipino Women Living with War
  • When the Elephants Dance
  • Falling in Love with Hominids
  • Night at the Fiestas
  • A Lucky Man
  • Alligator and Other Stories
  • Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire
  • Manila Noir
  • Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Trying to bust a reading slump? No time to sink into a long novel? Prefer plots that can be contained in a handful of pages? Then a short story...
87 likes · 13 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Again my eyes hurt as if they’d been blinded and gained total clarity all at once.” 1 likes
“That must be something, no? To be so rich you think you can buy reality?” 1 likes
More quotes…