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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-09
- Reviewer: Staff
In this stunning debut collection, the yearnings of the characters resonate well beyond the page, and each story feels as rich, as deep, and as crafted as a novel. Equally impressive is the confident fluidity with which Alvar moves from Manila to Bahrain to Tokyo, from 1971 to 1986 to the 21st century. In “The Kontrabida,” Steve, a pharmacist in New York, returns home to the Philippines to visit his dying father with a highly regulated sedative to ease his father’s pain and, more so, his mother’s. Although his risky action creates tension, a deeper strain arises when he attempts to help out in his mother’s store and realizes he can’t follow even the simplest requests: “It was a way of shopping I had completely forgotten: egg by egg, cigarette by cigarette, people spending what they earned in a day to buy what they would use in the next.” In “The Miracle Worker,” Sally is a Filipina who’s accompanied her engineer husband to Bahrain and, making use of her skills as a special-education teacher, takes on a single student, a disabled girl from a very wealthy family, whose mother is rich enough to think she can “buy reality.” Throughout Alvar’s stories, the language is as elegant as it is durable, while the lines of class, race, gender, and history are both blurred and crystallized. (June)