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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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How Far Is the Ocean from Here: A Novel Hardcover – July 22, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Shearns's accomplished and sophisticated debut opens, hugely pregnant Susannah Prue hides out deep in the desolate Texas-New Mexico border area desert, at the ramshackle Thunder Lodge motor inn. There she meets a variety of misfits, including the owners' mentally disabled teenage son and another guest's sexually confused niece, who become an essential if dysfunctional adoptive family to desperate, on-the-lam Susannah. Passive and oft-disappointed, Susannah made a fateful choice in deciding to serve as a surrogate mother to the wealthy but infertile Forsythes, Kit and Julian. The relationships among the three, we eventually learn, spiraled into tragedy, but the birth is imminent. Shearn's narration is fluid, shifting seamlessly among perspectives and time frames. The Forsythes verge on hard-edged rich-person caricature, but the rest of the cast is fully and compassionately realized, making for an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship. (July)
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From Booklist

Susannah Prue is a timid bookstore employee mere weeks away from giving birth when she impulsively flees from Chicago to a dilapidated motel somewhere near the Texas–New Mexico desert border. Holed up in the isolated Thunder Lodge, introspective Susannah’s life becomes entwined with the motel’s elderly proprietors, Char and Marlon; their handsome, mentally disabled teenage son, Tim; and the more offbeat guests, especially Dicey, who is on her way to Arizona with her seven-year-old niece, a sexually confused child named Frankie. What Susannah hides from her newfound acquaintances is that she is a surrogate mother for an affluent couple left behind in Chicago, the conflicted Julian Forsythe and his wife, Kit, a sharp, stereotypical matriarch. As Susannah’s secret is gradually uncovered, she runs away again—her sights set on the ocean—this time in the company of young Frankie and an unstable Tim. Although the novel’s dramatic climax and moments of shifting perspectives feel hurried, Shearn’s otherwise thoughtful debut is a charismatic and provocative tale of intersecting lives and unexpected companionship. --Leah Strauss

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405340
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,204,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nina on July 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Susannah Pruh is a surrogate, runaway, very soon-to-be delivered young woman, whose car dies at the Thunder Lodge in the desert somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Maybe Texas, I forget. This unusual first novel involves the relationships between Susannah, the surrogate parents, the motel owners and their mentally disabled teenaged son, and an aunt and niece combo who are the only other guests at the motel.

This is literary fiction about folks who are mostly flawed through no fault of their own. Genetics and the cycle of bad parenting for some. Others are just trying to figure things out, to get to a better place in their lives. Hoping that something good will happen to them. Sometimes getting a little mixed up when they try too hard to make it happen and the hormones and heat have obviously fried their brains. Stressful situations abound for all. I would be surprised if it were by chance that it's the youngest person in the novel who seems to have his act together the most.

But what I liked best about the novel were simply the words. Ah, the beautifully, well-chosen words. You frequently get that in a first novel and this one has them in spades. As soon as our surrogate couple gets out of Chicago, Illinois scared them. The sun elbows through the clouds. The sky lowered like a disappointed forehead. The suitcases' tousled entrails fell out.

The book walks a fine line between seriousness and comic relief. The author must be quite witty and so lets her characters be too. But it is a dark novel as well. I would love to express a few thoughts about the ending but, of course, can't. I'll just say that the 2nd half of the book, I believe, is the stronger half.

It comes with a book discussion guide and this would be a great one for book clubs.
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Format: Hardcover
Susannah Prue agreed to serve as a surrogate mother to wealthy Kit and Julian Forsythe, but in the trimester of her pregnancy, she changes her mind and flees. Now "hugely pregnant" Susannah takes refuge at the dilapidated Thunder Lodge motel owned by the elderly Garlands who generally know why a big pregnant big city girl chooses to fall of the map and be buried on the Texas-New Mexico desert.

Susannah finds the other guests and the owner Marlan, who calls her Susie Q, and his family as desperate to hide from the world or at least someone like she is. She makes friends with the owners' mentally impaired teenage son Tim and Alabamian Dicey and her niece Frank. Now Susannah is going to give birth any day, but has no idea what to do about her child, but knows what she does not desire, the disinterested Forsythe couple raising her baby.

The residents of Thunder Lodge are a terrific fully developed eccentric group who forge a family of sorts; on the other hand Kit and Julian are stereotypes of the idle rich with no purpose in life except hedonism. Julian sums it up when he suggests to Kit they should redecorate their home instead of raising a child while Susannah is already carrying. Still this is a profound character study focusing on the human need for love and belonging with others by answering the deep philosophical title question.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Kindle Edition
Unfortunately, believable characters took a back seat to Shearn's flowery writing in this bizarre trip across the country for a surrogate mother. The characters were all idiosyncratic, which I don't mind, but I never felt like I understood enough about them for their choices to make any sense. Shearn included many well-written (in a beautiful language sort of way) personal details about each character, sure, but the details never fit together to make one believable character. For instance, throughout much of the book, Julian was presented as sensitive, intuitive, and kind. It was jarring when he would suddenly be shown to be completely removed from an emotional situation with thoughts about fishing. Was he truly longing for his first known biological link to another human being, or did he really just need to take a wood working class?

The plot also got so outlandish I almost couldn't take it. (SPOILER) Does Shearn honestly expect readers to believe that a woman who KIDNAPS 2 minors won't be pursued by police because she hasn't yet been gone for 24 hours?

The only reason I stuck with this book until the end was that it was being read in daily installments on our local public radio station during my drive time.
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Format: Hardcover
On a recent road trip to southeastern New Mexico, derelict or run-down motels and cafes whizzed past the window, interrupting my view of the mesas and horizon. These buildings and businesses were mysteriously erected between small towns or just outside them with seemingly little to offer weary travelers. Yet, because I had just read Amy Shearn's excellent debut, HOW FAR IS THE OCEAN FROM HERE, they also held a strange promise of transformation and healing solitude.

Susannah Prue is a young woman in danger of disappearing. She feels unseen and unknown by even those closest to her. She makes the radical decision to become a surrogate mother in order to do something and feel something. But, just weeks before her due date, she disappears on purpose, jumping into her car and traveling southwest, heading to the ocean, and finally finding herself --- literally and later figuratively --- at the Thunder Lodge, an empty motel in the middle of the New Mexican desert.

Run by the gruff and long isolated Marlon and Char, the motel proves an uneasy refuge for Susannah, a place she means to be only a temporary home. Soon she falls into a routine, watching the highway and spending time with the couple's strange son Tim. Susannah is attracted by Tim's beauty and simplicity, and she willfully ignores his disability, causing Marlon, and especially Char, much distress. But Susannah is also distressed, and wounded, and must decide quickly what she wants to do. It is only a matter of time before Julian and Kit, the biological and legal parents of the baby she is carrying, find her hiding at the Thunder Lodge.

Julian and Kit are the successful couple who, from all appearances, have everything that Susannah does not.
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