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A Far Country

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  906 ratings  ·  191 reviews
From the bestselling author of The Piano Tuner, a stunning novel about a young girl’s journey through a vast, unnamed country in search of her brother.

Fourteen-year-old Isabel was born in a remote village 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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  906 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 th
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 fo
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, fami ...more
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 "somethin
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Leroy Seat
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 se
Ben Chandler
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
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
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
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~
Ron Charles
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 cir ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 Isa
Corliss Karasov
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.

Smriti Brar
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A poignant tale about a girl's journey to find her brother. Very descriptive with heart wrenching details in places. A sensitive narration. ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
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, ...more
Max de Freitas
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
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 run ...more
Melody Kitchens
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I never really got into this one. It's difficult to find a purpose in the narrative. Isabel's voice is often unconvincing. She finds herself in difficult situations that end surprisingly well (view spoiler). The location and time period are murky, I suppose because there's deliberate difference between the "backlands" and the city, and the new settlements and the city. My best reading is Daniel Mason is speaking about raci ...more
Ink Drinker
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
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, ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 re ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Victor Sonkin
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 c ...more
Robert Ditterich
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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.
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed other books written by Daniel Mason, I was disappointed with A Far Country. I had to labor through it.

For starters, one has to speculate/imagine where the story takes place. Perhaps South America? It's the story of a young girl, Isabel who goes looking for her older brother in the city who has sought a better life.

I just can't 'oh and ah' about this book.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as The Piano Tuner or The Winter Soldier, but still worth reading. A thought-provoking novel on poverty and lack of education in an unnamed, presumably South American country. Or perhaps the dystopian United States of the far future. Veered toward magical realism at times, but not enough to annoy.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isabel is a young girl that leaves her primitive life and travels to the city. Naive, frightened, alone she is so venerable yet she persists to make her way in this new environment. She is looking for her brother, Isaias who preceded her to the city. Does she find him? Interesting characters, laid-back story! Nice, quick read.
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Daniel Mason is the author of The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2007), The Winter Soldier (2018) and A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (2020). He is a recipient of the Joyce Carol Oates Prize and the Northern California Book Award and has been shortlisted for the Jaes Tait Black Memorial Prize. His writing has been translated into 28 languages, and adapted for opera and stage. His short ...more

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“A world full of people who want to know what you will be, what is your skill and what is your purpose. In the north, if a man had come and said "What will you be? What will you do?" I would have laughed at this kind of person that lives all the time in the future.” 6 likes
“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.” 3 likes
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