Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Far Country

Rate this book
From the best-selling author of The Piano Tuner, a stunning new novel about a young girl’s journey through a vast, unnamed country in search of her brother.

Raised in a remote village on the edge of a sugarcane plantation, fourteen-year-old Isabel was born with the gift and curse of “seeing farther.” When drought and war grip the backlands, her brother Isaias joins a great exodus to a teeming city in the south. Soon Isabel must follow, forsaking the only home she’s ever known, her sole consolation the thought of being with her brother again. But when she arrives, she discovers that Isaias has disappeared. Weeks and then months pass, until one day, armed only with her unshakable hope, she descends into the chaos of the city to find him.

Told with astonishing empathy, and strikingly visual, the story of Isabel’s quest—her dignity and determination, her deeply spiritual world—is a universal tale about the bonds of family and a sister’s love for her brother, about journeys and longing, survival and true heroism.

A tour de force of great emotional and narrative power.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Daniel Mason

9 books558 followers

Daniel Mason is a physician and author of The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2007), The Winter Soldier (2018), A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (2020)--a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize-- and North Woods (2023). His work has been translated into 28 languages, awarded a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Piano Tuner was produced as an opera by Music Theatre Wales for the Royal Opera House in London, and adapted to the stage by Lifeline Theatre in Chicago. His short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All Story, Zyzzyva, Narrative, and Lapham’s Quarterly, and have been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a National Magazine Award and an O. Henry Prize. An assistant professor in the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry, his research and teaching interests include the subjective experience of mental illness and the influence of literature, history, and culture on the practice of medicine.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
117 (11%)
4 stars
290 (29%)
3 stars
400 (40%)
2 stars
148 (14%)
1 star
41 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 201 reviews
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
March 11, 2020
Daniel Mason Is a contemporary author to keep your eye on. He is talented. He writes extremely well, consistently fitting the prose to the theme and subject of a book. Each book is unique; none are repeats of earlier books. They differ in how they are written and in subject matter.

The setting, the backdrop of the tale told here, is not defined. You must guess. I guess Brazil. That the country where the story rolls out is not specified is, I believe, intentional. It is the book’s central theme that is to be focused upon rather than events in one particular country. And the central theme, what is that? The migration of people from rural communities to urban metropolises. This is my view; it is not spelled out clearly. When you close the book at its end, you ask yourself what the book is saying. I have given you my response.

The book is neither plot oriented nor focused upon character portrayal. The central character is and remains a detached, bland and faceless cipher. Stating this outright is bound to push many prospective readers away, but this book is not going to suit all readers!

Hang on a second. I have not yet told you what makes the book special.

The book’s descriptive details are marvelous. The details put you in a place, put your own feel there on the ground so you see what the characters are living and seeing. The story begins in a poor rural community where sugar cane is grown, but there is a severe drought. The land is plagued by long, extended droughts, not just once in a while but often. The droughts are a recurring hardship that must be borne by the people, a hardship over which they have no control. The land is being modernized—roads are being built, but for the country poor these bring only more problems. Political corruption and conflicts between different social classes and between old ways and the new throw life off kilter. There exists no longer any script for how life is to be lived. How do entrenched Catholic guidelines, mystical beliefs and old traditions fit in with the new?

The drought continues. A family’s subsistence level has been reached. Changes must be made. The family’s eldest son, Isaias, is sent south, south to the big city. His sister, Isabel, soon follows. She is a mere fourteen years of age. She is to live with her cousin already in the city, care for her cousin’s baby, get a job and find her brother. The setting shifts from the drought-ridden “backlands” in the north to the “Settlements”, the shanty town on the outskirts of a very large city in the south.

Tension mounts. The trip south is frightening. The address Isabel has been given is useless, but she does eventually find her cousin. What is really frightening is her smallness, her being a grain of sand among millions and millions of other grains of sand.

One senses impending doom. This is created by the author’s descriptive details and the lines. Tension mounts, then subsides only to mount again. Very little actually happens, but what does happen is frightening. At one point, Isabel . Isabel’s initial fear of just leaving the two room apartment where she lives with her cousin is felt by the reader. Her existence in this new world so utterly foreign, strange and threatening to her is palpably felt.

Does Isabel find her brother? Does she remain in the city or return north? You’ll see.

Isabel has psychic powers. They are realistically woven into the story. They are drawn more as intuitions than as pure magic.

Reading this book, you feel aloneness and helplessness. You feel as one small insignificant pinprick in a large mass of many. In the city danger arises when least expected, from you know not where, out of the blue. In the rural north hunger and the caprices of weather loom dark, but there at least exists a sense of community. That which is drawn for the reader are the vicissitudes coupled to urbanization. If readers are made to palpably feel Isabel’s situation this might push people to instigate change. Being made aware of problems is the first and vital step before change.

Kate Reading reads the audiobook. She does not intrude into the story. She reads it very well and so I have given the narration four stars. Her reading perfectly captures the atmosphere drawn by the author’s words.

This book is not going to fil all readers, but I like it a lot and so give it four stars.


The Piano Tuner 4 stars
The Winter Soldier 4 stars
A Far Country 4 stars

A related, non-fiction book:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity 4 stars by Katherine Boo
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,065 reviews239 followers
June 25, 2023
This book tells the story of two siblings of a poor family of rural sugarcane farmers living in Brazil. The elder brother, Isaias, leaves home to travel to the big city to make his living by performing music. He and his younger sister, Isabel, have always had a close bond. After dealing with drought and a land-grabbing ploy, the family is facing starvation, so they send fourteen-year-old Isabel to the same megacity in hopes that she can forge a better life. She desperately wants to find her brother, but he has disappeared. She lives with a relative, takes care of their baby, and eventually finds work as a flag-waver for a political candidate.

There is not much of a plot, other than Isabel’s search for her brother. She encounters many hardships, con artists, and violence in the city. She is young and naïve, so it is even more difficult for her to determine whom to trust. Isabel has some form of “sixth sense” which includes the ability to “feel” what has happened to people on numerous “missing person” posters, but this concept is never fully formed or pursued. I had previously read and loved The Winter Soldier. This book is less immersive, and the pace is much slower. The only character developed to any degree is Isabel. The strength of this book lies in the beautifully descriptive prose. I liked it and plan to read more by this author.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,854 followers
August 9, 2008
A quiet but fierce novel. Set in Brazil (it's important to me to know WHERE I am as I read- I'm geographically-anal so I put together various clues- a severe drought in NE Brazil in the early 1980s, sugar cane industry, zebu cows, a great southern city, the Amazon. Then I read two 2002 interviews with Mason where he stated he was working on a novel set in Brazil...) Mason offer the mystical, mythology, a sense of fable- all swirling like feathery clouds through the stony reality of poverty, famine, drought, civil unrest, racism, slums and violence. Isabel leaves the protection of her family circle in a village stricken by drought and famine in the country's north to seek her beloved older brother, Isaias. Isaias ran off to find his fortune as a musician in the country's fabled city of gold and the family fears what has become of him.

Most of the book follows Isabel's quest to find her brother from her journey south to her life in the city, where she shares a one room flat in the projects with her cousin and minds the cousin's baby. The baby becomes her companion during her increasingly bold circuits through her neighborhood and eventually into the city in search of her cherished soulmate and kin. Isabel is barely a teen but carries the depressed and resigned soul of someone decades her elder. Her wanderings seem aimless and the plot vague, but it comes together with a rush of breath and a bittersweet resolution.

Mason's writing is beautiful, lyrical, full of vision, impression. This nearly gets in the way of plot development, but he is still a joy to read.
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 11 books264 followers
July 24, 2011
I was disappointed in this novel from an obviously very accomplished writer. It read more like a year in the life of the protagonist, Isabel, with a series of incidents, rather than a story that builds towards a climax.

Isabel, a 14-year old girl, has a spiritual and symbiotic bond with her older brother Isaias, who has left their drought-ridden village to make it in the big city “down south” in this unnamed South American country that could be anything from Brazil to Peru to Argentina. Isabel follows in the path of her brother, undertaking a perilous journey on a flatbed that nearly kills her, partly to be reunited with him, and partly to escape being dependant on her parents who are eking out a living on the farm. She finds employment in the city slum caring for a cousin’s baby during the week and waving flags for a political candidate on weekends. Her quest for Isaias takes her into some dangerous situations but the imagined presence of her brother, who seems to be always around her, steers her out of trouble. The revelation in the end is anti-climactic, but the message, that out perceived greatness is not inherent and only comes from those who confer it upon us, is clear. The other inevitability: the drift from village to city, where the villagers end up in dead-end jobs, and that this cycle is perpetuated with every batch of new entrants, is more than clear too.

The writing is beautiful and this redeems the book somewhat, but the conflicts come in a series of little bumps which quickly resolve themselves and do not build upon each other. More could have been done with Isabel’s disastrous outing to the discotheque in the city, or when she lost baby Hugo on the bus. The author conjures the impression that everyone is waiting for something to happen, like Isabel waiting for Isaias to show up; alas, as a reader, I too was waiting but nothing happened for me to say “ah, ha!” in the end.

I liked the descriptions of village and city and they come across as if the writer spent considerable time in these locales and immersed himself in the life there.

I think more could have been done with this book given the writer’s gift for language, description and insight into character.
Profile Image for Jeslyn.
281 reviews10 followers
May 12, 2016
Excellent second outing - I've yet to read anything I wasn't completely engrossed in from this author. Written from the perspective of a young South American girl, Mason crafts a perspective that is believable, poignant, and riveting in carrying the reader through Isabel's odyssey of seeking her brother Isaias, who has left the destitution of their agricultural life for greater promise in the city.

Interestingly, one of the most consistent criticisms this novel received was that the location was left a mystery to the reader. I don't understand why this was such a sticking point for the disgruntled; in fact, given the poverty and transience of the people of the backlands, it seemed entirely appropriate that the locations were as anonymous as the people. Mason's writing seems to urge the reader to ponder thoughts, actions, experiences, and perhaps to let go of the finite and specific for a bit.

Still one of my favorite modern fiction writers.

Profile Image for Cherie.
1,298 reviews111 followers
August 5, 2014
It took me two times to get all of the way through this book. It was not because it was badly done, or not an interesting story. Unfortunately, I am a moody reader, and the first time, I was just not in the mood to listen after I downloaded it and started listening, and it languished in my iPod until it expired and disappeared from my bookshelf back to library. Then I forgot about it.

The first time I downloaded it, I was drawn to the picture on the cover and the title of the book. That "something" was still there and it called to me again the second time I found it in the available books listing on Overdrive. As I started listening, it seemed soooo familiar. The names in the story, the lady's voice that was narrating, but I was not completely sure, until I got to a part in the story that I knew that I had heard before. It had not been a nice thing, and I instantly recalled the moment of horror again.

There parts in this book that are hard to accept that things like it really do happen, but I am not naive enough any more not to believe them. I know that they must be true. I know that they have happened. It makes me sad and angry, but it it does not make them go away.

On the surface of the story, this book is about a young girl waiting for her brother to come home from the city. The girl, Isabel, idolizes her older brother, Isaias. The story is told from her point of view from the time she was about four years old, when the story started.

I do not know where the story actually takes place. Somewhere that there is sugar cane grown and constant drought and people leaving home and moving to a very large city and back again, when and if possible. It is a story of hardship, constant hunger, pain, poverty and love. Isabel's love for her brother is the driving factor in everything that happens to her and where she goes and what she does to find him.

The story is beautifully written, but dragged at times and felt like it just went on too long. Then, it was over. It was not the ending I expected, but the abrupt stop was very jaring after going on for so long. It was a glimpse into a kind of poverty and powerless existance that I have never read about before and I was awed by the strength and endurance we humans can face up to in our environment, no matter what life throws at us. As long as there is love, we can go on.

It is a haunting story, and scenes still come back to me, weeks after I finished listening to it. The narrator was Kate Reading. Her voice was wonderful and she read beautifully.
Profile Image for Leroy Seat.
Author 7 books14 followers
November 28, 2010
This was a well written book in many ways, but I enjoyed the first half of it more than the second half, for the story didn't seem to progress much and the book just seem to stop rather than come to a satisfying end. I liked the descriptive writing, and I got a good impression of Isabelle, the central character, and the struggle she went through. But, still, I was disappointed that there was not more of a story.

I thought this was an interesting statement of Isabelle's thoughts: "She had never seen anyone as fat as Junior. At home, fat men were landowners or lenders and to be avoided. There is no fat man who didn't make another man thin, her uncle used to say" (1424-25).
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,049 reviews48.7k followers
December 24, 2013
Daniel Mason's evocative first novel, The Piano Tuner, published in 2002 when he was still a medical student at the University of California, told the story of a musician traveling into the Burmese jungle to find a mysterious military officer. His new novel, A Far Country, is another story of searching for someone in a distant place, but this time the exotic locale is never named, the theme is reduced to numbing clarity, and the characters are meant to represent millions of people in similar circumstances.

The far country of the title is a desperately poor Catholic nation, where wealthy landowners murder squatters who have nowhere else to go and unrelenting drought pushes peasant farmers to eat insects. Mason's heroine is a shy, clairvoyant 14-year-old girl named Isabel. "Her body isn't closed," Mason tells us, which means "there was less of a barrier between this world and the other one." If you have a low tolerance for magical realism, don't worry: It quickly fades away here in favor of a flatter, rather static lament about the plight of The Poor (wherever they may be) at the hands of The Rich (you know who you are).

Isabel's father works in the sugarcane fields, but the older brother she idolizes dreams of making his living as a musician in the capital, a place of almost mythical promise: "In the city, families put their maid's children through school, babies are bigger. In the city, the poor are rich, minimum-wagers are kings. The men don't cheat you in the city, they aren't powerless, they don't drown themselves in drink, they don't hit. The women don't get old before their time. In the city, if you are thirsty there are fountains." (Spoiler alert for readers who have never been to a city: These peasants have a somewhat rosy impression of it.)

After several crippling seasons of drought, Isabel's musical brother defies their father and strikes out for this land of opportunity. During infrequent phone calls -- taken at the town's only telephone -- he reports that he's doing well. He even sends back some money. And so when her parents finally run out of hummingbird meat and cactus roots, they send Isabel on a perilous bus ride to live with a cousin in the vast and ghastly Settlement that has developed around the city.

While her cousin works as a maid during the week, Isabel takes care of her baby, watches street crimes and wanders around looking for her brother. "Mostly," though, "she lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, watching the room fill with light and later with darkness." For about 200 pages. Oh, there are moments of potential plot development that may fool you into reading on -- a job as a campaign worker, a trip to the Department of Missing Persons, a budding romance with a photographer -- but they're all cheats; they never lead anywhere. Despite many passages of beautiful writing, the novel suffers from an aimless plot, characters almost as abstract as the setting, and languid moralizing about the tragedy of poverty.

Fans of The Piano Tuner, take note: This new novel strikes the same chord over and over again.

Profile Image for Ben Chandler.
137 reviews18 followers
January 5, 2020
A Far Country, once it sets its pace, tells a fairly straightforward tale of a sister trying to find her missing brother. What happens along the way is a series of compelling events, driven by this desire, that lead her through unfamiliar places and ideas.

Again and again, driven by the same mechanic, does she experience hope, fear, courage, disappointment, revelation. It's certainly engaging, but it also feels as though the drive of the narrative is diluted with each of these cycles. While every event and memory ties into this central idea, they feel as though they're discarded after they've run their course, forgotten in favour of the next set of events. Early on in the story the author employs some magical realism that I expected would be a major force in the novel, but it's almost pushed to the side, and only surfaces as a specter of what I believed it would be, yet another element to lead us into another self-contained moment.

When the story concludes, one definitely gets the sense of resolution, of a character who has learned and grown. The outcome might not be what we, or the characters, anticipated, but it's well wrapped up, and feels complete. The prose is vivid and enchanting, and invokes fear, pity and curiosity. Definitely enjoyed my time with the book, and only wish that it felt more whole, more connected throughout.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,981 reviews2 followers
April 24, 2020
I love Daniel Mason's writing and this book did not disappoint there.
Isabella is from a poor family in the hills of an unnamed country. Her older, adored brother, Isaias leaves the family and the drought stricken sugar cane fields to try his hand at a musical career in the big city.
At first he calls and sends money back home. Then, nothing.
Isabella is sent to live with a cousin in the city who needs a babysitter for her child so that she can return to her work. Isabella searches the city, with the baby on her hip.
The book is slim and I went along for the ride feeling joy when she makes friends, apprehension when she asks a strange woman on a bus to watch something, and then...
It all ended. Quickly. We reached the finish line and don't even get to catch our breath and the book is over. I could have put up with several more chapters to bring all to a considerate resolution.
I'll still read Mason's next book (this is his sophomore volume) and have already read and thoroughly enjoyed his third publication.
Profile Image for Cristian.
74 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2020
En este segundo libro de Daniel Mason, la historia es algo lenta y cuesta enganchar, pero al avanzar uno se va integrando al relato y logra capturarte. Si se supera este primer escollo, el libro termina siendo de muy rápida lectura, con un zig zag de emociones, hasta llegar a un final intrépido con la característica del autor de ser un narrador muy elegante y sensible. Aún así, me quedo con “El afinador de pianos”, su primer libro.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
739 reviews
September 11, 2020
A sad but beautifully written story of the resilience of the human spirit.
"That you are the single person in the world who makes me more than what everyone else sees: that you created me, that in your mind lives the person I wish to be." Beautiful words...and thought~
Profile Image for Adriana.
7 reviews
August 6, 2007
After having read Daniel Mason's first novel, The Piano Tuner, I eagerly anticipated the release of his second book. However, I was sadly disappointed in it. A Far Country is written with the same beautiful, fluid, lyrical prose that made The Piano Tuner so attractive to me, but in this novel, the language doesn't seem to serve as a vehicle for an engaging story - rather, it is the mask which hides the fact that there is not much of a story at all.

A Far Country is about a teenage girl named Isabel, who lives in the drought-ravaged interior an unnamed Central or South American country. Isabel is prone to visions of some sort, and when her brother goes off to the distant city to make money, she goes in search of him - dreaming of his whereabouts. It sounds like it could be an interesting story, but the truth is that nothing much happens. Isabel arrives at her cousin's home in the slums on the outskirts of the city, and she just remains there, taking care of her cousin's baby, and walking around town. She does very little proactive searching, which in my mind would make the novel much more interesting. Mason writes Isabel with great psychological depth, but this can only carry him so far without a plot, and all the exploration of her psyche becomes a little ponderous after a while.

I am incredibly sad not to give rave reviews to this novel, since I love Mason for The Piano Tuner, but other than his intoxicating prose style, there is little to recommend.
Profile Image for Teddy.
528 reviews77 followers
August 12, 2007
Here's my review from Amazon.ca:

Since I loved the Piano Tuner, I couldn't wait to read Daniel Mason's new book A Far Country. It's a meditative story of class, migration, isolation, and poverty. Mason again writes in beautiful lyrical prose. This is a more simple story than Piano Tuner, but important in it's message. At times I found the story drag and a bit flat. We know it takes place in an undisclosed South American country, but we don't know for sure when it was. It was either in the present or near future, from what I could interpret; however I would have liked Mason to let us know. His ideas were great, just not as fully developed, as I would have liked.

That said, I found this novel worthwhile and look forward to seeing where Daniel Mason will take us next. If Amazon had given the option, I would rate this 3.5 stars, rather than 3.
Profile Image for Corliss Karasov.
3 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2015
Beautifully written story takes you into Burma's fascinating towns along the Irrawaddy River. It's about a piano tuner traveling into regions of subsistence farming in Burma.

Loved it as a great book.... not because our daughter, Ariela and the book's author, Daniel Mason, are in the same medical residency program at Stanford.

Profile Image for Smriti Brar.
55 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2016
A poignant tale about a girl's journey to find her brother. Very descriptive with heart wrenching details in places. A sensitive narration.
Profile Image for Anna.
564 reviews11 followers
January 25, 2020
To say that this book was disappointing would be a gross understatement. I’ve read this author’s two other books and enjoyed them both a great deal although neither of those were feel good, happy ending type of books, either. They, at least, had some degree of warm bloodedness in the characters. This book didn’t have that. It was depressing from the get go, and, with the author’s skill for writing such descriptive passages, the sad hopelessness and futility of Isabel’s existence and experiences, seeped into my being. I don’t recommend reading this if one is suffering from SAD or simply the January blues; it’ll definitely make it worse. I can’t say I didn’t learn anything. Again, as this author is such a skilled word artist, I did get insight into the plight of people affected by severe weather events, the extreme poverty that can result, and the desperate lives lived as a result of searching for better ones by migrating to cities. Very sad all around.
I felt frustrated by the fact that the setting was intentionally vague and unnamed, and I’m not sure what the purpose of that was. In summary, although I didn’t enjoy this book, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I doubt that I’ll ever forget it.
Profile Image for Max de Freitas.
244 reviews17 followers
October 29, 2018
The first mystery was - where was the setting? Place names were fictitious. Surnames were never mentioned. I concluded it was in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. This is a state where a large number of German immigrants settled but the characters seemed unaware of their heritage. This area has produced a disproportionate number of super models. Why more than mother Germany? Probably because the poor women had so much less to eat that they were anorexic enough to be suitable runway models.

This is a story about abject, overpowering poverty on drought-stricken farms, fetid suburban slums and polluted cities. The starving characters are barely literate but they struggle bravely every day to accomplish small tasks, score small victories. There are glimmers of hope that they can eventually educate themselves and take small entrepreneurial steps to extricate themselves from their dire circumstances.

The second mystery, the one that kept me from putting the book aside, was - would she find her brother alive?
Profile Image for Melody Kitchens.
286 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2019
I had a very hard time getting into this book. The setting (although I never could figure out exactly where the book was suppose to take place) was interesting, the poor backlands where everyone was cane croppers, and the city where everything was suppose to be better, but everyone still struggled. However the whole premise of the book-Isabel finding Isaias- was very long and drawn out. At times I felt like she did waiting for him to show up at Manuela’s house, like I was waiting for something interesting to happen that might never will. I did like when Isabel had her premonitions and all in the beginning, I wish there had been more of that. After spending the whole entire book waiting for it, I felt finding Isaias was rushed and rather disappointing. He hadn’t done anything with his life, he was practically homeless living in a shanty town. It did make since why he waited so long to return though. Isabel idolized him, so he wanted to keep being who he was in her eyes versus the truth.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ink Drinker.
278 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2018
3.25 At other times in my life, I would not have persevered to complete this novel. However, I’m devouring the written word in early 2018 and the page count was tolerable. Others may have been disappointed with this novel because it serves as narrative for the sake of narrative. There is no plot and its brilliance is (only) in the portrayal of the life for those sustenance farming in harsh desert terrain migrating to the urban wasteland of a cronyist industrialism. Cronyism, lack of rule of law, no respect for individuals and no true property rights makes life impossible for the farmers and so we inhabit the mind and body of a young girl who observes...and we see and think completely as she does. Isabel doesn’t display growth per se, she is more fixed at a certain place in her self and in the midst of changing times.
Profile Image for Diane.
993 reviews
August 29, 2019
I recently read the superb book The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason and I was eager to tackle his other writings. This one paled in comparison. Mason is a gifted writer and his descriptions of weather, poverty and drought are unmatched. His characters and narrative in this novel fell flat. They are basically vague and undeveloped and left me feeling detached. . The action takes place in an unidentified country (Brazil? Mexico?) where sugar cane and cassava are grown. The drought brings starvation and poverty and characters must move on to find a better life. Because I felt so unattached to Isabel and her brother, I didn't feel invested in their success or survival. Mason has become a better writer since this novel.
438 reviews3 followers
September 21, 2019
I wanted to love this as much as I loved "The Piano Tuner"...but it just didn't grab me. I spent much of the time trying to figure out if we were in the present day or in the future when global warming has REALLY kicked in. (I kept getting a feeling like I was reading "Friend of the Earth" meets "The Running Man".) I also thought maybe more would be made of the "sixth sense" of the main character. All of this second guessing means that I didn't appreciate the careful drawing of Isabel and her relationship with her brother. I liked it - but not in a way that will stay with me the way Mason's first book did.
Profile Image for Jennie.
141 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2017
I listened to this book and I felt as though the narrator started off by leaning into you and telling you a secret. That "secret voice" continued throughout the ENTIRE book, which was a bit annoying. I am learning that if this happens again, I may just put down the book altogether and read it personally, instead of listening to it.
As far as the book, it was okay. It did not really have any major highs and lows for me. I was hoping that they would expand on Isabell's "powers" a little more, but after the prayers to do away with them, that was about all you got.
Profile Image for Annette.
958 reviews
October 15, 2018
Interesting plot in an Hispanic area, family life in a drought stricken area (very well described), and the consequential flight of a young girl to the ‘big city’ settlements, raw and squalid with severe poverty, but secure family values.
All in all, an aimless kind of plot that had subplots that did help to describe the poverty but seemingly not connected to the main question of the mysteriously missing brother of the young girl (14 years old) main character.
I wanted to read this author and I did like his writing, but really am waiting for his new book.
Profile Image for Debra.
215 reviews
January 6, 2020
The main character, Isabel, lives in a village that is being destroyed by drought and modernization. At age 14-15, she is sent by her parents to the city, to find her missing brother and to work and send money home. The dreamlike nature of her story, as well as her diminishing ability to “see” the unseen, took up too much of the story for my taste. While I adored The Winter Soldier and this book shared much of the same writing style, the way the author placed the story in an unnamed country and time made it less appealing to me.
365 reviews4 followers
November 24, 2020
The first third of this book held me tight. I love the main protagonist, and I hurt for her. Then what loosened me was my own discomfort at reading about the poverty (economic, political, social) that strangles so many families, communities, individuals and to which lip service is paid by most of us, at best. Not everyone who can help can help everyone who needs help, but we can open to the need.

Then the final few pages again held me tight and I was there and I hurt for her, and did not skim to avoid her pain.

Profile Image for Victor Sonkin.
Author 18 books314 followers
December 27, 2020
Well, it's a novel that's very well written; its characters are believable and quite alive; and yet, against The Piano Tuner and The Winter Soldier it is, in my opinion, a much less gripping book. Probably because nothing much happens there; I was constantly reminded of the 'magical realism' novels which I had read in my youth; thank God, there was no magical realism of any kind; and still, this uncertainly of time (possibly 1970s?) and place (possibly Latin America?) made me uneasy, which was certainly the author's intention; but it was counterproductive in my case.
Profile Image for Shellie.
972 reviews
August 13, 2022
It started out MUCH better than it middled and ended. It’s a super sad story, but kind of goes nowhere and everywhere at the same time. At one point I wasn’t even sure if it was really a story or just a comment on society in general.

Parts of it are beautifully written, the descriptions are very picturesque for your mind and brain. But sometimes it takes a sharp left turn, and you have to get caught up on what’s going on.

I’m not sad I listened to it, but there is no one that I’m going to encourage to read it. If you choose to I will support you in that decision.
Profile Image for Robert Ditterich.
Author 5 books2 followers
March 2, 2018
A tender tale about the loss of culture and ultimately the loss of hope for isolated rural communities and the individuals who escape them in an unidentified south american country. The persistence of drought which causes an exodus into slum fringes of a city is the prime force in the challenges that face the characters. It is poignant and delicately written. The story is driven more by character than by plot.
Profile Image for Valerie.
97 reviews
February 5, 2021
The writing and details are so well done. But it was slow and I was unsatisfied. It is also such a melancholic and frustrating feeling that I got from reading it. Not great escapism from my feelings lately irl. Still, it does have a couple really interesting parts that will stick with me. Reminded me a bit of the House of the Spirits from the mysticism. I thought it was ok, but wanted different things from it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 201 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.