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Mia Alvar

8 p.m. Oct. 21 at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-4408 or

Mia Alvar knows how to kick open a short story. "If you are beautiful and broke, one place left for you is Asia," one of her stories begins. "Every weekend, in Bahrain in the 1980s, we took turns throwing a party," she starts another. For this and other reasons (a way with depicting uncomfortable situations and relating hard truths chief among them), Alvar’s story collection "In the Country" may be the year’s sharpest literary debut.

Born in Manila and based in New York, Alvar stations her characters across the globe. While the settings may seem exotic to some readers, the themes will not. In these nine stories, expatriates try to feel less lost and lonely, families struggle to make sense of one another (motherhood is a central concern) and walls come down as suddenly as they go up.

In a New York Times review (there have been two), the critic J.R. Ramakrishnan touts Alvar as "clearly a writer with enchanting powers." You’d be wise to let yourself fall under her spell. (Books and Books' fall schedule includes a number of other noteworthy writers and celebrity authors, including Elizabeth Gilbert Oct. 19 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; Chelsea Clinton Oct. 22 at the store’s Coral Gables location; and David Mitchell Nov. 5 at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.)

Deborah Lopez/Penguin Random House
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