A Complicated Girl — “Miles from Nowhere” by Nami Mun
While solidly-written and bursting with an energy that keeps the pages turning, Nami Mun’s “Miles from Nowhere” is hardly an easy book to read. The difficulty of reading the book is purely due to the subject matter.
Nothing about this book is pretty. Mun is a writer unafraid of facing the ugliness in the world. It’s a hard story to stomach, about a delicate flower of a girl forced to toughen up to survive.
The central character and our narrator, Joon is a thirteen year old Korean girl in New York City in the 1980s. After her father’s abandonment of the family leaves her mentally unstable mother in a nearly catatonic/suicidal haze, Joon winds up taking to the streets. She drifts aimlessly through a job as an escort, living in homeless shelters, drug addiction, and a series of bad-for-you friendships.
As Joon wanders from sleazy encounters with older men, spends time in jail, finds herself pregnant and trying to get rid of the baby, stealing a Christmas tree along with two other kids staying at her homeless shelter, and shoots up a ton of heroin, you cling to her in the hopes that she’ll pull through and make something of herself. Haunted by her parents failings, she flashes back to them a multitude of times and we’re able to see the messed-up childhood all this rage and wretchedness came from.
While the book winds down, there’s a feather of hope. It’s so small, it’s barely there. (The ending reminded me of the movie Precious, where even though the ending is far from happy, there’s a breath of half-hope.) Still, it’s like a little tiny beam of light as you make your way down a long, dark tunnel. Just when you begin to think there’s no way out, a shaft of light appears…. and it’s something.
Not everything about the world is pretty. “Miles from Nowhere” showcases that.
For additional information, visit the book’s blog.