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A Far Country    by Daniel Mason Amazon.com order for
Far Country
by Daniel Mason
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

In his second novel, Daniel Mason continues to demonstrate his ability to get place just right. His first work, The Piano Tuner, was set in Burma in Victorian times. We definitely felt the strange world, customs, culture and dress. In A Far Country, Mason's prose continues to be atmospheric, and we are drawn in to the land he is writing about, even though this time it has no name. We feel the drought, smell the malodorous paths of the settlement, and hear the screech of brakes. The poverty is palpable.

Isabel and Isaias are close-knit siblings, born in the country, the backland. It is a hard-scrabble life, and when the drought comes there is hunger. After a time Isaias leaves to try to make things better so he can help the family. And at first he does call and send money. But then there is no word from him. Isabel, though young and inexperienced, feels called to find him. Her travels to the city and her experiences once she gets there are detailed for us in such a way that we feel we are right there with her. It is a lonely and frightening time for a na´ve girl. The cousin she stays with has her own problems and cannot be of much help.

Isabel searches for her brother throughout most of the book, and we begin to feel with her that she will never see him again. However, in the last twenty pages a surprising thing happens, and from there things very quickly come to some kind of resolution. For me, this was not too successful. The change of pace leaves out details that before were freely given. The ending is basically just presented, and so it is hard to understand how it could have come about. While this book is not, at least in the end, as effective as The Piano Tuner, it has its own power, and I for one am looking forward to the author's next work.

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