Thursday, April 1, 2010
BSI March 2010 selection
There are two mysteries wending through A Far Country by Daniel Mason; one for the reader and one for Mason’s main character, Isabel.
The reader’s mystery is a straightforward one--where the story takes place. Mason deliberately keeps the location vague--Is it Mexico? Africa? Indonesia?--which can engender conflicting emotions toward the story. One either becomes frustrated with a story boiled down to a miasma of images. Or the story and its characters transcend place and even time--ultimately becoming timeless and current.
For Isabel, Far Country’s main character, the mystery is the disappearance of her beloved brother Isaias. She endures extreme poverty and peril at home as well as in the capital city where she is sent to join her brother and cousin Manuela.
It is in the capital city where the story (and Isabel’s life) slows and changes, swerving off into an unexpected, but not unbelievable, path. Does she find her brother in the wasteland of urban life? Does she find herself and her place in this new world? Only time and the story’s end will tell.
Daniel Mason belongs to the long established trend of doctor-writers. A few of the more famous and current crop of doctor-writers include:
Mason's first book, The Piano Tuner, has been made into a play and an opera. It has also been optioned for a movie. His latest work is Death of the Pugilist, or The Famous Battle of Jacob Burke and Blindman McGraw, a book of short stories. A Far Country was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2007.
Reading group questions for A Far Country can be found here.