In the Country
by Mia Alvar
Yet another book focused on a non-American culture, which continues to reflect the composition of the RA staff at NYU. This book, In the Country, by Mia Alvar, is a collection of short stories which discuss the social issues that arose around the time of government turmoil in the mid-1970s through late 1980s in the Philippines. Each story reveals different aspects of the culture: political issues, poverty, hardships on women, and government intervention in people’s daily lives. My favorite aspect of the stories is that, in each one, there is a pivotal “plot twist” that comes as a surprise to the reader. One of my favorites was The Virgin of Monte Ramon. In the story, a little boy is born with no feet and lives in his wheelchair, told by his mother that he inherited the deformity from his grandfather who was injured in the army and died a hero with the same physical condition. For years, the boy and his mother received financial support from many men in town, who appeared to have a “relationship” with his mother. One man in particular, Dr. Delacruz, visited frequently to provide food, clothes and other amenities. The boy was picked on by classmates because of his condition and the fact his mother was a recipient of numerous “gifts” from mature men. This left him to be ridiculed as the son of a whore. The twist to the story is that Dr. Delacruz is actually the boy’s biological father….Alvar is a young author on the rise. Her ability to capture the realities of her culture and the horrors that occurred during the dictatorship of the country illustrate the atrocities on so many levels. This is a book worth picking up!