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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book will surely have those who wish to ban anything that isn't saccharine sweet up-in-arms. It is an disturbing story of a street child, complete with the rough language, drug use, and ugly images of activities that accompany street life. Yet, there is the beauty of friendship and the reaching for a better life by the protagonist that lift this tale to another level.

Nami Mun is a skilled author, and the reader is drawn into the story full force. I found myself cheering for Joon and hoping that she would be able to lift herself out of the street life. I wanted her to succeed; I was unhappy when she chose to do the wrong thing.

This is not a book for the squeemish or for those whose narrow-minded vision would have any controversial book banished. It is, however, a book for those seeking an articulate, intelligent author who can make you cheer for the characters in the book, even if you disagree with their life choices and their actions.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I discussed this book to a pretty great length with several other readers and because of that lots of questions came up for me and I was able to think about this book in greater depth but it also left me with a lot of questions that I don't know the answers to!

The book started off great for me, Joon has runaway and makes a few friends in the shelter she is staying at. Great first few chapters that include working as a dance hostest and meeting a variety of other characters and doing some sort of crazy things.

Strange things start to happen, like Joon seeing what she thinks are angels and things with her family, things that didn't make total sense to me. I guess maybe I don't do so well with stories that aren't concrete because I definitely had a hard time deciding what was real and what she was seeing in her own mind. That was probably on purpose but I like to know what's going on!

I did like the way this book was written, in little fragments, similar I thought to 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, over Joon's teen years. We get to revisit characters from the beginning of the book and meet new ones. But also, because of that some of the characters are mentioned so briefly we don't really get to know them and understand their purpose in the book.

I wasn't very happy with the ending. It just ended and I wasn't really sure where things were left. So I guess I liked the premise and the beginning of the book and towards the end things didn't work for me as much.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Miles From Nowhere tells the story of 13 year old Joon who runs away from a troubled home. With her father abandoning the family, her mother becomes mentally and emotionally absent. As Joon tries to find her place in the world, she increasingly feels no connection with her mother. She eventually decides to run away from home and the book details her life on the street and her struggle for survival.

Shortly after leaving home, she ends up in a homeless shelter where she meets some very colorful characters by the name of Wink and Knowledge. The way in which these two character were introduced, I assumed that they would be an integral part of her life. But just as quickly as they are introduced, they are out of her life without much explanation. Joon then drifts from place to place and situation to situation without finding any permanance. She works as a dance hostess, an Avon lady and a bevy of other random jobs. Somewhere along the way Joon picks up a nasty drug habit. She tries to quit but finds herself drawn back by her boyfriend and continues to spiral deeper and deeper into a narcotics fueled existence with its attendant consequences.

This a heartwrenching story because Joon is a victim of neglectful parents. One is exceedingly moved by the things that such a young child is forced to undergo all because her parents are lost in their own worlds. Her childhood is destroyed and she is forced to raise herself into adulthood. The vast majority of Joon's life is spent in hopeless and bleak conditions.

One of the main flaws of the book is that it is told in an episodic manner and this literary device eventually weakens the story. One is never able to fully connect with the story because just as you begin to get into some area of her life, you are immediately thrust into another chapter that deals with something unrelated. I think that the book may have also benefitted from having each chapter dated so that we are able to tell when exactly in her life the tale being narrated fits in. At the conclusion, the book just ended. There was no real wrap up, it was just over. But as much as the end left something to be desired, I appreciated the fact that Joon does not have a rags to riches end. Her future is uncertain but hopeful. You see that she is beginining to make strides into a better life but she is still perched at the edge. My rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This story is very well written. Details of the plot are elsewhere, so I won't duplicate them here. Other reviews mention that the plot is episodic, and remark that the episodic plot detracts from the work as a whole. Plenty of works are episodic; among them are great works like The Odyssey and Gulliver's Travels. Obviously, I don't agree that an episodic structure necessarily weakens the work as a whole.

This book reads like a set of connected short stories.

Many times while reading the novel I came a cross a marvelous turn of phrase, and I immediately was pleased and puzzled. Why can't more people write like this? The author is insightful and talented. Not every great writer has the talent or the will to create a cohesive, long, engaging narrative the first time out (or ever). Give this author a chance. She has written a fine debut novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 9, 2009
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nami Mun's Miles from Nowhere deserves attention because it is such a compelling story, and it is such an unusual one, too.

It is the self-told story of Joon, a young teenage daughter of Korean immigrants in the Bronx. The story begins after Joon has run away, but only over the course of the book is the full story on her parents' relationship revealed to us.

She darts from shelters to third-rate motels to heroin addiction. She works the streets. She sells Avon. She sells dances. The only peace she finds is in the long subway rides she takes out to the terminal stop and back.

This book grew on me. The prose is very simple but also very driven by observation. It is easy to picture June's world - one of second story day cares, tire shops, abandoned gas stations, White Castles, and faded hair salon posters. Her voice is tragic and desperate. Joon seems to have no place to go, like the discarded doll that she watches one day, being pushed along by the stream of water in a gutter.

Again, the reader is led by the hypnotic spell that seeps through the trances that are Joon's thoughts. Sometimes the terror of her naivete and confusion jumps out. There is a scene toward the end that made me cringe. I was sure the book was about to end, or at least, the part with Joon.

The author bio hints that Mun has had many of the vocations (Avon lady, dance hostess, street vendor) held by Joon, and a few others that would provide excellent inspiration for insights into this world - criminal investigator and bartender.

Just a great book. I hope it gets a chance.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book was a bit harder to read that first I imagined. It is not a one day read, in fact, it took me 6 weeks to get through a bit at a time. Eccept for the main character, there is little to find on developing of other players in this novel. There are drug pushers and users; prostitutes and pimps and then there is Joon with all this swirling in addition to a dysfunctional family consisting of recent Korean immigrants, Joon's father and mother.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2009
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the tale of a 12-year-old runaway from the Bronx, Joon-Mee. After her father leaves the family and her mother starts falling to pieces, Joon-Mee decides to leave home as well. She seems fearless in the way she handles her interactions at first, but she is obvious anything but. The cast of characters in her life include what would truly be the basics for your standard junkie novel...except there is more depth to these characters. Yes, in a way, junkie novels are all the same. It's up to the writer to make them stand out, make them different. They carry that burden. Nami Mun does an excellent job with this.

The story is beautifully written, and I got absolutely lost in the tale. The only real issue I had was that it seemed to jump back and forth between points in Joon-Mee's life at what feels like a haphazard pace. Also, it just ends. Just like that, it's over, and I really would have liked to see maybe a more fleshed-out conclusion.

This is a wonderful tale. I will be looking forward to more from this author in the future.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Though Nami Mun has created an authentic voice of an alienated Korean American teen struggling with her own identity, her family and her own mental illness, this story seems to recreate an already told tale of a young female teen runway visited by Evelyn Lau's landmark work and autobiography "Runaway." It is clear though told in short story form and based loosely on her own life, that Mun's work owes a debt to Lau's breakthrough work or that they can be compared for similar themes of cultural conflict and learning to cope in violent and abusive circumstances. Mun's fictional voice is so immature and naive though, I found that her lack of anger or real analysis of her interactions with the mother or father too passive and in that way, not believable. Overall, though this story is valid as a fictional work-well written, it didn't further the the way for Asian American literature in my opinion. We have another tragic story, another passive victim. Other people may connect to this story, I was left wanting a better resolution, a better moral lesson or a character I could believe in that would rise up the squalor, the fetid descriptions and the overall bleak and horror that had invaded my life after reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In the middle of the bustling, crowded city, a young girl fends for herself. She left home, still a young teenager, trying to put her sad and broken home life behind her. What she finds on the streets is at once sicker and more optimistic than what she left. Her choice is between the destruction and danger of heroine and prostitution and the struggle for a safer and healthier life. For Joon, this decision is harder than it seems.

Joon is the dysfunctional and likable protagonist of Nami Mun's debut novel, MILES FROM NOWHERE. A Korean immigrant, she acculturates to America but her parents flounder. The alcoholism and mental illness they suffered from in Korea comes with them to their new home, and Joon is the consistent victim. Her father drinks, yells, hits and humiliates, then disappears to seedy motels by himself or with other women. Joon's mother sends her to find him and in the meantime enters near-catatonic states brought on by her hurt, anger and frustration. Joon often finds her "playing dead" for days at a time, unable to cope at all.

At the shelters, on the streets, in the flophouses and cheap motels, Joon finds other damaged kids with whom she forms close but tenuous bonds. Knowledge is the tough-talking, big-dreaming runaway who teaches Joon the rules out on the streets. They weave in and out of each others' lives until they finally lose each other forever. Wink is the sensitive young male prostitute and Lana the violent transsexual "dance hall girl." Joon moves from one demeaning job to another but eventually finds work in a nursing home. It is there she meets Blue Fly, the beautiful but unfaithful junkie with whom she will live even though he breaks her heart.

Through violence and heartache, pain and addiction, Joon maintains a weary optimism that she will be fine in the end. She is more tender than the people around her but still wise and wary. She tells readers her story in a fog --- the fog of drugs, of memory, or of both. The action takes place in New York City in the 1980s, and Mun captures well the darkness behind the cheery disco facade. Her prose is graceful and spooky, painful in its details and realism but lightened by pop culture references and a sly and quiet wit.

MILES FROM NOWHERE isn't completely original; there are plenty of great runaway or kid-on-the-street stories. Still, Mun's is well written with a blend of romanticism and brutal honesty.

In "Miles from Nowhere" Cat Stevens sang, "Miles from nowhere, I guess I'll take my time, oh yeah, to reach there." He sang simply and poetically, of obstacles and the reliance on self. Mun's novel explores those themes and others such as guilt and invisibility, family and friends, loneliness and dependence. MILES FROM NOWHERE, with its readability and vignette-like format, gives readers plenty to think about it.

--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Miles from Nowhere" is a beautiful novel in the way that street graffiti can engage a city's sense of artistry. Its strength comes from its sheer beauty in the face of so much ugliness, disappointment, and despair. In this novel, author Nami Mun can take a dollar store window full of soap and turn it into a kaleidoscope of colorful beauty, can turn the words of street kids and junkies into poetry. It's not a journey everyone will want to make, but for those who do, there are some amazing literary rewards in store.

What feels like more of a compilation of short stories than a running storyline in a novel, "Miles from Nowhere" is the saga of Joon-Mee, a Korean-American teenager whose Bronx family life is so disturbing that she decides living on the street is better than remaining in her dysfunctional family. Following her life from homeless shelter to escort club, from deep dives into heroin to selling Avon door-to-door, the stories are engaging yet sobering, spare and beautiful.

Moreover, just when the reader is ready to write a situation off as hopeless, along comes a turn of phrase that completely reverses the entire scene, making it as beautiful as the moon emerging from a dark, clouded sky. It speaks volumes to Mun's writing ability that she can turn a situation on a dime, making the most downtrodden characters into prophets and most mundane of situations into something extraordinary, and worth exploring.

For those who would rather not see the sordid underbelly of the big city or follow the antics of its down-on-their-luck residents, "Miles from Nowhere" is not for you. Readers need a big view and a willingness to be open to seeing old things with new eyes. Mun has a great future ahead of her as a literary star if she can apply the writing chops demonstrated here to other subject matter. The book is a stunning debut novel. Writing a second novel that equals "Miles from Nowhere" will be the true test of what she has to offer the literary world.
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