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Miles from Nowhere Paperback – Bargain Price, September 1, 2009
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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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?"
But what really sets this novel apart from the many recent works featuring a street-tough, post-punk adolescent is Joon's voice--she is one of the more distinctive narrators in recent fiction. Joon has the kind of sassiness that makes her endearing to the reader and anathema to her underhanded employers and shady "clients." In an interview, Mun describes how she imagined her hero, and her summary of Joon is completely on the mark: "both frightened and curious, intelligent and naïve, strong and vulnerable. And funny. She also displays stoicism--a quality I admire in her but one that ultimately signifies her repressed emotions."
It is rare that an author's debut is so honest and compelling. There's a net of complicated characters that are weaved together by a teen girl named Joon, whose life itself is ove...more Nami Mun's debut is nothing short of stunning. 280+ pages of raw human suffering, and somehow, the author has the ability to make the reader want more...not in any voyeuristic sense though. There's a certain participatory demand that is made of the reader if you choose to forge through Miles From Nowhere.
It is rare that an author's debut is so honest and compelling. There's a net of complicated characters that are weaved together by a teen girl named Joon, whose life itself is overcome with addiction, mental sickness and death. Despite many of the harsh things that happen to Joon, that weird element of the human spirit pokes its head into many of the stories contained within, not necessarily providing hope, but a sense of honesty that most of us rarely admit to..."He had no idea that grief was a reward. That it only came to those who were loyal, to those who loved more than they were capable of."
I'll say this...I think this is a must read, but Mun's book is no light Sunday fair. Written beautifully, but emotionally taxing, Miles From Nowhere will likely be one of the better books I've read this year.
a life all wrong on the outside, but all right on the inside. Joon deserves that four finger glass of whiskey.
Most recent customer reviews
Its a tragic story but also made me laugh.
Excellent writer. Can't wait her next book!