Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country examines a few significant weeks in the life of Sam Hughes during the summer after her high school graduation. Irene, her mother was widowed when Sam’s father died in Vietnam only a few months after their marriage, but now she has remarried and moved to Lexington. Sam has elected to spend her last year of high school in her old home, living with her mother’s brother, Emmett. The two seem more like brother and sister than uncle and niece, partly because his role in the Vietnam War has left Emmett in a sort of extended adolescence, unable to decide what to do with his life. In fact, Sam seems the more mature of the two, even though at the time of the novel she too is uncertain where her life will take her. She thinks she might want to go to college, but she is not certain. She wonders about her future with her boyfriend Lonnie. She also longs to help Emmett cope with his problems, both physical and mental. Most of all, Sam wonders about the father she never knew and the war that took him from her; she senses that, in knowing him, she will somehow come to know herself. The novel becomes the story of Sam’s quest during these few weeks in the summer of 1984.

The novel opens with Sam, Emmett, and Mamaw (Sam’s grandmother) on the road to Washington, D.C., in Sam’s decrepit Volkswagen. She bought it used a few weeks before, but now they have had to stop in Maryland to have its failing clutch repaired. The center...

(The entire section is 514 words.)