Saturday, June 11, 2016

book review of Mia Alvar's "In the Country"

While back in the Philippines for a recent two month visit, I brought this book to read on the flight.

It got such raves that I was eager to read what this new breakout author had to write about our country, its diverse people and its many differing circumstances.

Being Filipino I was just too hopeful about discovering a fresh Pinoy author. It turns out In the Country felt out of touch with my experience of the people Alvar writes of.

The book turned out to be such a disappointment. Mia Alvar just filled pages with superficial local gossip with zero value and no substance. There were some pretty evocative phrases but these seemed to go nowhere.

Reading these short stories left me longing for a more immersive and consistent fluency to pull me into a tale well told. Instead of stories with imaginative range, ravishing power, or preternatural grace all I could grasp at were cliches and innuendo.

Alvar documented her characters human frailties well but the context in which she wove her content felt manipulated and contrived. With lives depicted as petty and where actions or processes felt stilted or without any redeeming factor.

It's too bad that there are readers out there now, not knowing any better, who believe the characters in this book to be how Pinoys are. 

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