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A Far Country by Daniel Mason
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A Far Country (2007)

by Daniel Mason

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
"The Texans" is not politically correct, is dirty and raw and presents history through the confluence of a Jewish cowboy, a runaway slave, a German emigrant, a Mexican girl, renegade Rangers, and lots of Commanches. There are no real heroes, but a number of villains; yet, the story manages to produce a deeply satisfying emotional impact. These people laid the foundation of Texas.

The character of Katrin, the German emigrant, was especially interesting. Thrust into circumstances beyond her control, she adapts why still remaining so rigid in many ways. When asked if what she and her husband had accomplished would matter in the long run, she replied "You have to think on what we do today and whether we do it right. That's all we can do."

If you enjoy American historical fiction that isn't "sanitized" for today's world, you will enjoy this read. Also, for a similar read with lots of humor but an interesting look at US in the 1800's try Turpentine: A Novel. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
I rarely abandon a book half way through (Book 2 of Twilight I MEAN YOU) but I let this one go at the half way point. The Piano Tuner was so lovely and engrossing and I kept waiting for that to happen with A Far Country but it just left me cold. I didn't love (or even hate) any of the characters in a way that compelled me to find out what happens to them and I think it had to do with the POV the story is told from. The protagonist is a 14 year-old girl from a rural countryside who goes to the city to find her brother and the story is primarily hers but told in the third person. If it had been a first person POV, I think I would have gotten more involved in her evolution but instead the story just reads like the most boring person you know explaining their day to you. Ow ow ow ow owwwww. ( )
  fogcitybean | Aug 13, 2013 |
The simplicity of A Far Country belies the swooning compliments scattered across the cover. As another entry into the "Children in Developing Countries" genre, it is pretty standard stuff, and by the conclusion I found myself searching for something that would set it apart.

Isabel has a hard life in the backlands with her family, struggling to survive amidst drought and unscrupulous land grabs. When her brother ventures south to the big city, and then disappears, she sets out on the journey to find him.

That's pretty much it for the novel, and there isn't a dazzling panoply of characters to fill out this slim plot. Life in the slums is with Isabel is occasionally punctuated by outbursts of violence and terror, but in the main is staid, and the emotional centre remains the quest for her brother.

I would love to say that Mason renders his anonymous central or south American city with a dizzying veracity, but that's not the case. The city itself seems believable enough, but compared to the rich texture contained in books like A Fine Balance, there's really nothing here to hold on to.

This remains the case with the characters and plotting as well. Isabel is certainly very realistic, but she's also fourteen, naive, and generally on the passive side. The other characters are rendered quickly, believably and somewhat dully. They're not cliche; just very very... expected.

This is compounded because Mason largely eschews dialogue for a kind of literary neo-realism. I suspect that if you like neorealism, you might enjoy the slow cadences of A Far Country. But for me, absent a strong narrative, interesting characters, or a rich and fascinating world, I found myself wondering what Mason was trying to bring to this crowded genre. By its conclusion the book was reduced to a kind of faded sepia in my mind, and I can't recommend it. There's nothing really wrong with it, but there's nothing really right, either. ( )
1 vote patrickgarson | Jan 11, 2012 |
Brilliant, at all levels. A beautifully-written story about a young rural girl's journey to the city in search of her much-loved missing brother. The most heart-wrenching book I have read since Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. ( )
  blm52 | Mar 5, 2011 |
I was really curious to see if it would stand up to the standard set in The Piano Tuner, which I read a few years ago. This is a really good book, I found that I couldn't read too much of it at once as it was very vividly written. I am counting it as a Latin America book because, even though the country is never mentioned, the references to informal settlements and Catholic saints really made you imagine Brazil or Mexico. ( )
  soffitta1 | Dec 27, 2010 |
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For my parents.
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In the valley of the village they would one day name Saint Michael in the Cane, the men and women waited, turning the November Soil and watching the sky. 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375414665, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When drought and war threaten their land and her brother Isaias leaves their remote village on the edge of a sugarcane plantation to seek a better life in a southern city, fourteen-year-old Isabel follows him, only to find that he has vanished.

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