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In Country

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  2,446 ratings  ·  184 reviews
The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier

In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam came home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent. "Astronauts
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 2nd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,446 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Whitney Atkinson
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This book wasn't bad at all and there wasn't anything I particularly disliked about it, it just feel very flat for me. The main character is sorting through identity issues because her father died in Vietnam before she was born so she's trying to learn about Vietnam to unveil some of the secrecy behind her father. I think there were some really cool threads in this book that were pulled together, and it definitely has something to say about femininity and war, but I couldn't really connect with ...more
Anna Serene
Fucking finally finished this piece of shit.

Ok, so I read this for class and I legitimately don't understand what is so great about this book. The writing style is annoying and sort of choppy. I didn't like Sam, I didn't care about Emmett, and I think just because you don't have sex with a minor (but only because you can't get a hardon) doesn't make me like you. The only person I could stand was Irene, her mother, and that is probably because she was only in it for about five minutes. Am I missi
Stacy Pershall
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
As someone obsessed with Vietnam, the '80s, and strange-girls-coming-of-age stories, I was keen to read this one. And for the first 3/4 of the book, it didn't disappoint. Great heroine, set in the South, lots of references to early MTV, and a gripping central mystery: are Uncle Emmett's health problems a result of Agent Orange or not? It definitely kept me turning pages, and more than once I was reminded of Carson McCullers (always a good thing.)

But then it came to the last 40 or so pages, and i
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very much enjoyed this book. It was a "blast from the past," as we used to say growing up. Set in 1984, many of the references and allusions are to music/things/products/foods that were part of my youth. I was roughly the same age as the main character in 1984, in fact, so for sure could relate.

The book details (almost overloads you, in fact) on the repercussions of the Vietnam War. For readers who didn't grow up during this time, the subject is still timely, considering all wars have similar af
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I'll tell you my Vietnam story," Anita said..."One spring weekend in 1969 I was on a bus to Bowling Green going to see my aunt, and some boys got on at Fort Campbell. One of them sat across from me and talked with me. I was reading a book of poetry. This boy tried to read it over my shoulder, and he told me he liked poetry. Well, that really impressed me, because how many guys will read a poem? He wasn't just saying it to flirt, either. He told me about some poems he had read. And then he told ...more
Craig Werner
My reaction on re-reading's pretty much what it was the first time through. Mason's telling an important story focused on the daughter of a father killed in Vietnam before her birth. Sam Hughes, the daughter, is immersed in mid-80s pop culture (especially Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album and MASH re-runs) and the sketch of the small-town Kentucky milieu is compelling but not as densely realized as Mason's short story collections. It's the classic "nothing major wrong with it" book that ...more
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book has stuck with me since I first read it ten years ago in an American Literature college course. It's a book that, stylistically, probably deserves four stars; there are some awkward jolts in the momentum of the story. But I can't bring myself to lower my perfect rating. I get so attached to Sam and Emmett everytime I re-read this book that I feel like I would be letting them down personally if I were to confess flaws in the story.
Several reviewers have noted that this book ought to be
sweet pea
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
i liked the concept of the novel quite a bit - a Vietnam War story told as a coming-of-age story by a girl coming to terms with her family's war history. but, in the telling, the book was often disappointing. too many of the themes were beat to death - Agent Orange, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, M*A*S*H, etc. the moments that were supposed to be poignant were increasingly not. any love i had for Sam was obliterated by the end of the novel. perhaps if the author was drawing more from her life, ...more
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, bookmooch
I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would.

Sam, the main character is kind of annoying. She's 18 and "finding herself" and coming to terms with her family history and the history of the Vietnam War, so I guess it doesn't surprise me that she is annoying. She is probably supposed to be annoying. In any case, I was annoyed.

All of the characters were kind of bland. I didn't hate any of them, but I didn't love any of them either. I guess that's how I felt about this whole book: didn't hate
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sensitive, insightful novel about the Vietnam War published in 1985 amid the tide of fiction on the topic being written then. I reviewed many of them. Here I liked the articulate voice of the narrator, Sam Hughes, whose father died over there and whose vet uncle she lives with in Kentucky. Sam is learning about life and herself. Lots of pop culture references from the time period are included. If I had to read one work of fiction on Vietnam, then I'd pick this one.
Ian  Cann
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful story that makes its point in a quiet emphatic way without hitting you over the head with the sledgehammer of plot and meaning. The world that Mason depicts feels real and moving - that quiet rural American town where nothing seems to happen slowly with people either trapped or looking for an escape route. The impact of Vietnam and the exploration of Agent Orange and PTSD for the veterans such as Emmett is sensitively handled and evocatively written and the way in which the novel wor ...more
Graham Oliver
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was nice to read something set where I grew up (with a lot of geographic references) but the writing itself was annoyingly blunt and melodramatic like a bad YA book and without a great plot to redeem it.
Kitty Catster
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 - I really wanted to like this book more, some parts were very good and deep but others were just meh! I was baffled how the characters in a lot of the dialogues were simply not listening and just not talking to each other. It was the weirdest thing! Was it on purpose? I don’t know...I still want to watch the movie though.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kid-young-adult
I read this in school in the 90s and remembered it as a powerful book about a kid discovering the Vietnam war. My youngest and I began it as a read out loud and I quickly realized that it really isn't that good. I don't know if it was just my first introduction to the Vietnam issues (but that can't be true) or what, but upon second reading it really doesn't hold up.

Sam is rather simplistic and her concerns are real, but come across as paranoid. In some ways, this is accurate (she is just a powe
Alisa Muelleck
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, book-club
It's pretty rare a book turns me around after underwhelming me a lot at the start, but this one did. Abby rightly pointed out Bobbie Ann Mason writes a mean short story, and in some ways each chapter of this novel feels like a story, some stronger than others. My interest in fiction related to the Vietnam War is zero; hippies make me crazy and I never want to read books about political activism of any kind, but Mason here keeps it tightly focused on one haphazard family and their small circle of ...more
Cameron Stuart
Sep 26, 2014 rated it liked it
With an unconventional family structure, carefully worked popular culture references and Vietnam Vet's that are a little more three dimensional than the stock "good guy goes to 'nam, it's horrible and he comes back scarred and angry," Mason creates a coming-of-age tale not just of Sam and Emmett, but of a distinct national experience. The story does tend to clunk along like Sam's shitty VW on its way to D.C, but "In Country" is an enjoyable read and a refreshing take on post-Vietnam America. The ...more
Curtis Bozif
Jan 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, vietnam, war
This book was written at a strange time in America's relationship to the Vietnam War. Reagan was president, and people had stopped asking "why were we in Vietnam?" and started asking an even stranger question, "why didn't we win in Vietnam?" The National Vietnam Veterans Memorial had just been dedicated and the country was supposedly in the process of finally welcoming home it's forgotten veterans. But for my taste, In Country is often times heavy handed, preachy, and melodramatic. The dialogue ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Touted as an award-winning modern classic of the Vietnam War, this book looks at the war through the eyes of the adolescent daughter of a soldier killed in Vietnam. At least, that description fits the last quarter of the book fairly well--when the girl discovers, among other things, that the war meant killing people. The rest of the book is more a depiction of small-town Kentucky life in the mid-1980s. Still, it's a well-written, if rather quiet, book.
Isadora Wagner
This is a great coming-of-age book for girls and post-Vietnam War novel bound up all together. Sam Hughes is delightful.
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Found record that I read this during a lost summer. I don't recall any aspect of the novel.
Bonnie Thrasher
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Dated. I would have liked to have read this book when it was published, as i was Sam's age exactly at that time. The references to early MTV, Bruce Springsteen, VW bugs, etc. brought back a lot of memories, but I don't think they would transfer to teens today.

Sam's dad died in the Vietnam War before she was born. He and her mom had only been married a short while before he deployed. His brother Emmett signed up and deployed to Vietnam after his brother was killed. Sam's mother took care of Emme
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book I would ever have picked out to read on my own. I had to read this for a class and I am so happy I did. Mason has a way of making you feel so close to Sam that you're convinced she's real. Her swirl of emotions - grief, frustration, curiosity, protectiveness, loneliness - is so spot-on for teenage girls. Especially teenage girls who have been through trauma or have grown up in families who've experienced trauma. My bias against books focused on war comes from my assumption tha ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book about the coming of age of Sam Hughes, a teenage girl whose father died in the Vietnam War before she was born. She lives with her uncle Emmett in Hopewell, KY, a place from which many young soldiers came from during the war. She wants to learn as much as she can about what it was like for her father, Dwayne, as well as Emmett, both of whom were "in country" during the war. Emmett seems to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, or at least Sam is convinced he does. As Sam dis ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this story even though it was sad to think of this young girl who never knew her father. I have tried to imagine what it was like at war myself but she also wanted to be able to picture what her father experienced. Sam (Samantha) is 17 and she has been asking everyone about Vietnam but no one wants to tell her anything. She gets books from the library but with all the technical language and confusing names she doesn´t learn much and still can´t picture it. She wants to know about Agent ...more
This book was hard to read and it took some time for me to figure out where it was going BUT once I did I found it hard to put down. It is a story of a small town in a poor area of our country. Many of the young men volunteered to go to a war they felt was justified. The story starts with a trip to Washington DC and their car problems along the way.....then it goes back to the town...all the young men who returned damaged from the war...with physical complaints, seclusionist behaviors, the inabi ...more
Joshua Harris
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
The value of this read provides emotional and historical context to a situation, and there are many elements involved in the story to keep the modern reader reading. For example, there is a lot of female empowerment within this story, which is very important in the study of American history and literature: “You have to go to college, Sam. Women can do anything they want now, just about” (167). There is this emphasis on what women can do, however, the conversation seems to continuously revolve ar ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sam Hughes is a teenaged girl living in a run down house in Hopewell, Kentucky with her uncle Emmett. Sam's father, Dwayne died in the Vietnam War before Sam was born. Emmett enlisted after Dwayne's death, and when he came back from Vietnam he was never the same. Sam's mother took care of him for years until she moved to Lexington when she got remarried and now has a baby girl. Although she wants Sam to move to Lexington with her new family, she allows Sam to stay in the house with her uncle. Em ...more
Glenn Roberts
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Picked this up back in the eighties but after two chapters I couldn't abide the author's monotonous and repetitive sentence structure. Then someone asked me recently if I'd read it so I decided to give it another chance. Still didn't like but I finished it. It does get interesting toward the end and Emmett, a vet, sums the war up pretty well with, "You can't do what we did and then be happy about it."

Vietnam should have been a bit of history we learned from but we have failed to move ahead to s
Paul  Hankins
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
In-Class read with Room 407 students in the spring of 2018. We are using this book to pair with Silas House's ELI THE GOOD and the Kevin Costner film, THE WAR, to vet out themes across texts and how allusions that are based in time help to create a "film reel and soundtrack" for the story. That both IN COUNTRY and ELI THE GOOD are set in Kentucky give our readers a sense of geography.

IN COUNTRY does present some difficult subjects that our students navigated carefully with the help of a teacher
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Until close to the end of this book, I was preparing to give this only one or two stars. The ending, the last 1/8 or so of the book, qualifies it for another star.

I agree with a number of other Goodreads reviewers about the problem with the writing throughout much of this novel. Choppy sentences, robotic dialogue, flat telling of what should be emotional moments and experiences. This novel's language sounded so staccato in my head as I read, and it really annoyed me. I picked up this book becaus
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Bobbie Ann Mason has won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her books include In Country and Feather Crowns. She lives in Kentucky.

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