Fiction - hardcover; Riverhead; 304 pages; 2008. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
Due for publication late next month in the USA and early next year in the UK, Miles from Nowhere is by first-time novelist Nami Mun.As an adolescent runaway on the streets of 1980s New York, Joon finds herself in many dangerous situations in which she must live by her wits and be guided, in part, by the trusty survival instincts of her best friend Knowledge, who is three years her senior.
The book covers everything from Joon's stint living in a homeless shelter to her coming to grips with the eye-opening reality of escort work in a night club. Then there's her addiction to drugs and her love affair with a fellow addict that results, somewhere down the line, in an abortion.
Every now and then there are glimmers of hope, as she tries to turn her life around, whether by getting a lowly-paid job -- in one case selling cosmetics door to door as an Avon Lady -- or trying to reconcile with her parents who don't seem to care too much about her plight.
Still, it's an impressive debut, with some great characterisation (it's difficult not to feel sympathy for Joon and her cohorts, despite their hardened, street-wise and occasionally criminal personas) and a cracking narrative. And the ending, when it comes, lets you see that perhaps it is possible for a young person to survive a life in the margins after all and emerge that little bit stronger and wiser...