This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason.
In Country, by Bobbie Ann Mason, is a novel set in Hopewell, Kentucky in the summer of 1984. It is a coming-of-age story about a young girl, Sam Hughes, who has just finished high school and isn’t sure if she wants to stay in Hopewell.
Sam lives with her Uncle Emmett who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder from his time fighting in the Vietnam War. Sam’s father was also in the war, but he died a month before Sam was born. Sam becomes increasingly interested in helping her uncle and learning about the war and her father.
Lonnie Malone, Sam’s boyfriend, goes away for his brother’s bachelor party and Sam goes to the Vietnam Veteran’s dance while he is away. Sam is constantly asking Emmett’s friends, who are also vets, what Vietnam was really like. She wants to know so that she can help Emmett solve his health issues—namely his adult acne which she fears is due to Agent Orange exposure as are the strange pains he gets in his head. As she gets to know more of the Vets, she develops a crush on Tom Hudson. While Lonnie is away, she goes to the vet’s dance and spends the night with Tom.
Sam learns Tom is impotent and is unsure if it is because of a physical injury from the war, but Tom tells her it is all in his mind. She worries Emmett might have a physical injury and that is why he is not married or not currently dating anyone.
Once Lonnie returns from his weekend away, Sam gives him back his ring and breaks up with him. She decides to visit her father’s parents to see if they have any pictures, letters or other mementos Sam can keep and help her make sense of who her dad was.
Her Mamaw gives her a diary that came home with her father’s body. Her grandparents said there is nothing in it, and the handwriting is too difficult to read.
Sam reads it anyway and finds her father’s journal entries about what happened while he was in Vietnam. She is disgusted by how her father sounded proud to kill the V.C. and how he talks about the Vietnamese in his writing. She thinks all vets are like this and decides she is going to spend a night in the local swamp to see what it feels like. Emmett comes looking for her. They talk about what it was like for Emmett, and finally, after 14 years of mourning, Emmett breaks down.
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