Amazon Best of the Month, January 2009
: There's a moment in Miles from Nowhere
, Nami Mun's first novel, when a flashlight dangling from the ceiling of a squatter's apartment in an abandoned building "made pretty everything it touched--an open can of ravioli, the bandage just below his knee, a green leather purse." Mun's writing does the same to the often grim details of her teenage runaway's tale, but it's not so much what she sees as the way she looks that's beautiful--a cashier at a dance hostess club has "small wrinkled ears that reminded me of walnuts," the smoking room at a nursing facility "looked more like a dried-up aquarium, embedded with ashtray stands, oxygen tanks, and old people made of cloth." Joon, only 12 when she leaves her family in the Bronx for the streets, can't make much of a connected story of her life, but that clear-eyed attention, which brings a stone-faced kindness, unfaltering and unflinching, to the most sordid of scenes, gives you some hope that she will. Like Denis Johnson's junkie masterpiece, Jesus' Son
, the episodes of Miles from Nowhere
are held together not by a sense of progress (though one does stir for Joon toward the end) but by a strength of vision, which fights to hold the world together when it seems nothing else will. --Tom Nissley
From Publishers Weekly
Mun's first novel is a 1980s urban odyssey in which Joon-Mee, a 12-year-old Korean-American, leaves her troubled Bronx family for the life of a New York City runaway. The novel follows Joon over six years, as she lives in a homeless shelter, finds work as an underage escort and a streetwalker, succumbs to drug addiction and petty crime, then tries to turn it all around. Along the way we meet a cast of addicts, grifters and homeless people, including Wink, a boisterous but vulnerable young street veteran (I didn't even know they had boy prostitutes); Knowledge, a friend who ropes Joon into helping steal her family's Christmas tree; and Benny, a drugged-up orderly and self-destructive love interest. Mun is careful not to lean on the '80s ambience, and Joon's voice, purged of self-pity, sounds clear and strong on every page. Individual scenes, including Joon's first john, her interview with an antagonistic employment counselor and her climactic encounter with a good-hearted former neighbor, are wonderfully written. Unfortunately, the novel's episodic structure prevents Joon's story from building to anything greater than its parts. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.