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Miles from Nowhere Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 26, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, December 26, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (December 26, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594488541
  • ASIN: B002BWQ5P4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,159,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine 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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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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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.
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Nami Mun's debut novel is a series of episodes in the life of Joon, a Korean American living in the Bronx during the 1980s. Many readers might well regard "Miles from Nowhere" as interrelated stories featuring the same character rather than a novel and, in fact, most of the chapters were previously published as standalone stories. But the stories do follow a narrative arc, tracing Joon as she runs away from home at 13, eventually hits rock bottom, and begins to claw her way back up. As with many novels doing double-duty as story collections, the result is mixed; some stories/episodes are better than others (a few are actually quite excellent), but the book as a whole sometimes feels scattered or impressionistic.

Joon's life on the streets is populated by people who appear for paragraphs or pages or the duration of a chapter, and then disappear again. This in itself isn't unrealistic (it would be hard for a teenage runaway to make friends or form associations), but it makes character development a challenge. One recurring exception--and, other than Joon herself, the most memorable presence in the book--is Knowledge (yep, that's her name), who has one hilariously warped sense of morality. "Knowledge had standards. She had principles. No one ever understood what they were exactly but at least she had them." In one of the funnier passages, she recounts how she aborted an attempt at robbing a bank for her boyfriend when she makes the mistake of reading the note he wrote for the teller. "What kind of idiot can't spell money? . . . And if he's that stupid, how stupid am I for robbing a bank for him?
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