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I was recommended this book by someone who had read it for her MBA program. It's a very sad, heartbreaking, disturbing story told with a lot of sensitivity and depth without getting too bogged down in the sadness of the subject matter. The author manages to tell this story simply even though it's not simple.
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?"
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."
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 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.
this book is great. one of the great things about it is its meter and tone, and the sort of poetic flattened first person voice of a 13 year old runaway, Joon, who quickly catches on what to do for survival. and how it all blends in together, heroin, four finger measure of whiskey, a friend named Knowledge, a friend who shoots her up, an Avon lady story, "hi, I'm the Avon Lady, we have a special on mascara, two for one", door to door, seeing Mom pretend to be dead again, whose infamous quote about being an emergency ward nurse is: "I keep people alive who I don't care about."
a life all wrong on the outside, but all right on the inside. Joon deserves that four finger glass of whiskey.
I had higher hopes for this book. I had read an exerpt for a class and while reading, I could feel the pain and emotion in each word. I immediately bought the book, and while it is well written, the storyline is all over the place and you often don't get an explantiion of how point A got to point B...but I guess that's how life is: a scramble of memories and moments of your past, moving towards an uncertain future. Well written, not bad, but didn't resonate with me either.
Miles from Nowhere is an amazingly and beautifully written novel. One of my most favorite books! Every time I read it, I discover something new with such abstract beauty. I've highlighted so many passages that fit so well within the story at their exact time, but can also stand on their own to apply anywhere at any time in one's lessons of life. Being a J major, I crave a book by an author that can use so few words to convey such deep meaning and visualization. Bravo, Ms. Mun!