Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun
Memorable and moving with remarkable sensitivity, this writer has a distinct talent that has made her book one of my top ten for 2008. Spectacular imagery can be expected when you read Mun’s work. Your vision of setting and character requires little effort to conjure up what she vividly depicts in poetic prose.
I received Miles from Nowhere, about a week ago, and decided to glance over the first few pages as I do with all ARC’s I receive. I began thumbing through the book and reading a little. Within a few pages it became apparent that I wasn’t going to put this book down. I spent the rest of a dreary drizzly day buried in this amazing book.
The book takes place in the 1980s in New York City. As the story begins, Joon a Korean girl lives with her parents. Their marriage is a rocky relationship always on the brink of failure. One day her father finally has enough and decides to leave home. This sends her mentally ill mother, unable to contend with difficulties with his desertion, on a tragic trajectory of wacky behavior.
When Joon takes to the streets she fights for survival wearing the scars of pain. Joon is the main character, and will always be my favorite person in the novel. Who can forget her? She is confused, vulnerable, sweet, gullible, trusting, and generous. You are a part of her as a twin the entire book, difficult to leave her, hard to not feel her pain.
Her battles become narcotic addiction, failed friendships, and lost loves. She tries to climb out of the streets by working in a variety of jobs from dance girl hostess to an Avon door to door sales representative.
The story is written episodically with Joon as the narrator. We learn about all the friends, parents and the people Joon meets through her point of view. You can’t help but love Joon and want to protect and embrace her and tell her it’s just a bad dream. Time passes in Joon’s mind, sometimes rational, sometimes fragmented. You feel her confusion, her sense of loss and despair all through her cognition. Mun makes it look easy the way she has manages to create the passage of time over five years as Joon ages to eighteen.
This is a sensitive, heart-wrenching story, sometimes amusing, sometimes dispiriting yet carrying a message of hope. Nami Mun’s novel is a tale that will leave you deep in thought. With a late December release it just might make the perfect holiday gift for some. This debut work of Nami Mun portrays a veteran of her craft, a talented and compelling author. I hope we see more from her soon. Highly recommended.