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Miles from Nowhere

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,005 Ratings  ·  367 Reviews
A major new voice in fiction debuts with the electrifying and heartbreaking story of a teenage runaway on the streets of 1980s New York.

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at t
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published January 2nd 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published March 13th 2008)
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Dead Medium by Peter   JohnWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Authors With Only One Novel
44th out of 120 books — 215 voters
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2010 Tournament of Books Finalists
10th out of 97 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 08, 2009 Greg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
[I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads' First-reads program.]

“I was trapped in my body, and my body was trapped in this empty lot with men who knew nothing about love or pity but everything else crucial,” our young narrator, Joon, tells us early in this debut novel by Nami Mun. Like so much of Joon’s narration, it is a statement made with the chill accuracy of retrospect. And, given the context in which the line appears, its implications are terrifying.

Miles from Nowhere, which tells
Dec 18, 2008 Dan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like really depressing books
Recommended to Dan by: firstreads
Shelves: firstreads
This book is the story of Joon, a teenage runaway in New York in the 1980s. The book jumps around in time a lot. But in general it details the main character's parent's marriage falling apart, her mother descending into mental illness, her running away, becoming a prostitute and getting hooked on drugs. She gets off drugs, and gets back on drugs. And gets back off drugs again. Along the way there are many heart breaking and heart wrenching vignettes about her life on the streets. Its sort of lik ...more
Oct 22, 2009 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
It's like this: I was in the second bookstore of the day (Waldenbooks; first had been Hastings) and was browsing the shelves. Just browsing; I wasn't planning on buying another book. I saw this book, and didn't recognize the name.

I looked at the cover. I didn't want to touch it; it's light, white in the middle, soft blue at the outside, and I know what happens when I read books like those. You should see my Salinger collection; the covers are smudged with black fingerprints.

But I couldn't take m
Wisteria Leigh
Nov 07, 2008 Wisteria Leigh rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: high school and older
Recommended to Wisteria by: read review on shelf awareness
Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun[return][return]I received Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun about a week ago, and decided to glance over the first few pages on Saturday. When I receive an ARC I thumb through the book, read a little and try to obtain an overview before I sit down and read it. [return]It soon became apparent that I wasn t going to put this book down, and it quickly landed on top of my TBR pile. I can t think of a better way to spend a rainy day. As I began to read Miles to Nowhere, ...more
Jan 04, 2009 Jackie rated it really liked it
This is the debut novel of Mun, and it isn't an easy one. At the age of 13, after her father left them for another woman and her mother went completely insane (she was already half-way there, but...), Joon decides that she would be better off on her own, on the streets. The book is basically 5 years of vignette's about the various situations she had fallen into. Most are not pretty, but Joon accepts them all without anger or much emotion at all--some of that is the drugs she's on, but most of it ...more
Nov 03, 2008 Kimberly rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was so stark yet so poetic and full of life. Nami Mun had some ludicrously beautiful lines in the novel that just blew my mind.
Jan 10, 2013 Karina rated it liked it
In my personal opinion while reading the novel "Miles From Nowhere" it seemed to me as any old, average book. I truly wasn't very impressed by the content or the story line that the author, Nami Mun had created for a story, that I feel could have had a very different approach. With the characters having a hard life and with the conditions they were put under, I feel it could have had more excitement and surprised to occur in order to make the book a more intriguing read for myself.

The main chara
Mar 24, 2011 William rated it it was amazing
I will never forget this book. The harrowing tale of a teenaged runaway the story becomes the car accident which you can't pull your eyes from no matter how you try. Joon is in turns a thief, junkie, prostitute, mental patient, daughter, lover, saint. The book looks unflinchingly at the part of society and city life that rarely peeks out from the shadows. The disenfranchised and those that barely register are featured here with out disguises. The writing is superb. It is all meat no filler. It w ...more
Jan 28, 2010 Eh?Eh! rated it liked it
I have won exactly one giveaway, 1 year ago. Unfortunately, the mailing coincided with an uncharacteristic week-long snow/ice/snowstorm - I think the pansy mailman didn't want to shuffle through the drifts to drop the book off at my door and just left a note in my faraway mailbox saying I wasn't home when he tried to deliver it. 'Come snow' my ass!

From what I understand of's secret formula for awarding these freebies, my lack of review for this book (that they believe
Feb 22, 2009 Elsie rated it liked it
An unsentimental and unapologetic look at life on the streets for Joon, a teenager sleepwalking through the boogie-down Bronx just before and during Reagan's trickle-down prosperity. Missing are site-specific details of the borough, but Nami Mun makes up for it with an unswerving look into the mind of a teenager lost within her own heartbreak, confusion and numbing drug fog. Mun keeps it short, seeming determined to keep the reader from slipping into knee-jerk liberal responses to the violence a ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, lit-fiction
This is an excellent book, especially for a debut novel. While the story itself is dark and sometimes depressing, the writing is always beautiful and no matter how low the main character Joon falls,you always care about her. I read the whole 286 pages in one sitting, what more can I say.
Feb 08, 2009 Ginger rated it did not like it
Calling this fragmented story collection a "novel" is quite a stretch. It reads like an MFA thesis written by a student who can't decide if she wants to do a "novel" or a "story collection." The detached, sterile 1st-person POV seems forced and over-workshopped.
Feb 04, 2009 Deirdre rated it did not like it
Miles from Nowhere , by Nami Mun, is the tale of a teen runaway living on the streets of New York in the 1980s. Joon is an almost-likable protagonist, but I found myself getting more and more frustrated every time she made the wrong choice. She does try to make her life better, leaving the reader with enough hope to get to the end of the book.

Mun, a new author, seems to have written this fictional book based on her own life experiences. For having overcome her past, I commend her, but I wasn't
Dec 12, 2008 Brittany rated it it was ok
[This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy won through GoodReads Giveaways. The book will be published January 2009.]

This book is filled with marital infidelity, mental illness, homelessness, prostitution, homosexuality, drug addiction, alcoholism, abortion, and suicide. In other words, it's not a book I would usually be interested in. But despite its vulgar and depressing topics and overall roughness, it is at once quite easy to read and hard to put down for any long period of time. The ch
Bob Redmond
Jul 11, 2009 Bob Redmond rated it really liked it
In today's Tour de France, a few kilometers towards the end, the Russian rider Vladimir Efimkin bolted in front of the three others he'd been trailing for half the stage. For a couple minutes, Efimkin led everyone by about 20 or 25 meters and for some, proabably at least for Efimkin himself, he, his pedaling, his breathing, his effort, was the sole focus of the event.

This seems to be the approach of Nami Mun in her novel MILES FROM NOWHERE. The story of a runaway teenager in 1980s New York City,
Oct 04, 2009 christa rated it really liked it
Sit down at a table at Subway. Pull Nami Mun's novel "Miles from Nowhere" from your purse. Open the sandwich, take a bite, then crack into Chapter 3, "On the Bus." And read this:

"Two days of speeding, bagging, drinking creme de menthe, and snorting procaine, and now it was daylight, and the worms were already digging into my skin. The guy sitting next to me bit into a soggy taco. The smell of wet beef made me want to vomit."

Rewrap sandwich. Close book. Leave Subway.

Mun's debut is the story of
Apr 08, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok
What a bleak, depressing story. I can deal with that if the characters give me something to root for, but I didn't really feel like I had that here. Joon kind of pissed me off with her poor decisions and overall attitude of despair. Just when you think she might turn a corner and fight to reclaim her life, she does something to disappoint you again. I think the fact that her story takes place between the ages of 13 and 18 made it extra-hard for me to swallow, given that I deal with kids in this ...more
Sep 13, 2009 Rob rated it really liked it
Although the topic of a teen runaway in NY may sound dreary, you add drug addiction and prostitution and you have a tale so bleak who would want to read it. Not so in this thought provoking debut. Joon, runs away at 15 to a life on the streets of New York. What she could not get from her family she finally learns on the streets and through the interesting characters she meets along the way. She tells her story with no shame or regret but accepts her life the way it is. The writing is described a ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
I love debut novels--it's a treasure hunt to me. More often I've found piles of gold than empty chests. And certainly, this book by Nami Mun counts as gold.

It tells the story of Joon, who, at 13, decides she's better off on the streets than living at home with her crazy and distant mother. Five years of her life are covered in fairly short vignettes, as she faces horror after horror and becomes a sort of official witness to a lot of the darkness in the world. It's graphic at times in both langua
Bert Edens
Jan 05, 2011 Bert Edens rated it it was amazing
This is a gritty, realistic novel, one some might refer to as urban fiction. It follows Joon, a young lady who struggles with the results of a difficult youth. This translates to many problems as a teen and young adult, often times the same mistakes over and over. She struggles with finding her place in the world as well as rectifying her relationships with her mother and father.

This is a very stark, straight-forward novel with references to drug use, sex, drinking, abortion and all other kinds
Sep 30, 2008 James rated it really liked it
[This review refers to an advance reader's copy. The book is due out in January 2009.]

This is usually not my sort of thing, but I picked up and began reading and couldn't put it down. It's a very well written story about a Korean teenage runaway and drug addict in early 1980's New York. At times it's laugh-out-loud funny and at other times it's heartbreakingly sad. Like the main character, the writing is no-holds-barred and not sentimental. It reads incredibly quickly with some beautiful writin
Christine Zibas
Feb 12, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it it was amazing
Miles from Nowhere is a beautiful novel in the way that street graffiti can engage a city's sense of artistry. Its strength comes from its sheer beauty in the face of so much ugliness, disappointment, and despair. In this novel, author Nami Mun can take a dollar store window full of soap and turn it into a kaleidoscope of colorful beauty. She can turn the words of street kids and junkies into poetry. It's not a journey everyone will want to make, but for those who do, there are some amazing lite ...more
Juli Min
Mar 21, 2015 Juli Min rated it really liked it
All of the stories in Namu Mun's collection (which bills itself as a novel...) center around one narrator, a young girl who has run away from home and was living on the street and enduring a series of horrific experiences: abusing drugs, attempting suicide, selling her body - basically getting beat up by the world in one way or the other. That is part of the sick drive the story has, about halfway through you realize that each story is its own tragedy, unique and grotesque in its own special way ...more
Mandy Tanksley
Nami Mun's Miles From Nowhere is a bleak and depressing journey through several years of a young runaway Korean girl's life. Nami is a talented writer, but this particular story isn't a fun read. Not that it's supposed to be. Young Joon is the female lead which the story revolves around. In her early teens, she leaves he mentally I'll mother behind the way her father leaves them. After that, her life is filled with extremely bad choices. Every time you think she might get clean, she falls back i ...more
Jan 27, 2009 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, writing
While the subject matter of most of these stories was downright depressing---a teen facing drug addiction, living on the street, hustling--I was struck by how clearly the author had taken things that had proably happened to her in her own life and created fictionalized accounts, snippets in time dramatized not only to capture the moment itself but the life lesson as well. This is the way I'd like to handle that memoir, that teen fiction, that book that I've got in me.
Pauliina K
Nov 17, 2015 Pauliina K rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own

i originally picked this up just because Chuck Palahniuk recommends it on his website, but there are so many other reasons to read this book. it's dark and gritty in best possible way. there's no clear plot, no obstacle the protagonist has to overcome; it's just a collection of episodes of her life. and it's beautiful.

i tried to find any other novels Nami Mun had written but there's none yet. what an astonishing debut novel.
Jun 30, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
This book is a true gem. although dark, the author, nami mun, writes beautifully about the struggling, wandering, human. the main character, joon, has been messed up by her family and does what she can to get by while living on the streets, taking odd jobs, having people come in and out of her life, and battling drug addiction. mun guides readers through the maze of joon's mind, from her insightful narratives about the sometimes ordinary, sometimes eccentric characters she encounters, to the mix ...more
Jul 29, 2011 크리스티 rated it it was amazing
This was just an amazing book. It's not my "normal" type of genre I read but I decided to give it a try with all the good reviews. After starting it I couldn't seem to put it down. I was so wraped up in everything about Joon's life I had to find out what was going to happen next. It was simple yet beautifully written. I can't wait to read more from this author!!
Nov 02, 2008 AGamble rated it it was ok
Read as an Advanced Reader from SIBA 2008:

A MTV-generation picture of adolescent homelessness and destroyed families, but Mun's prose is strong enough to make the book more enjoyable than expected. The characters, rather than the plot, are the backbone of this novel, and their interactions are at once harrowing and hilarious.
Jan 29, 2009 Ligaya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women, addicts
This book is amazingly engrossing--couldn't put it down. In many instances, I was reduced to tears. Nami Mun's imagery is simply stunning. I would love to see this become a (well made) film.
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Nami Mun grew up in Seoul, South Korea and Bronx, New York. For her first book, Miles from Nowhere, she received a Whiting Award and a Pushcart Prize, and was shortlisted for the Orange Award and the Asian American Literary Award. Miles From Nowhere became a national bestseller within first weeks of publication and was selected as "Editors’ Choice" and "Top Ten First Novels" by Booklist, "Best Fic ...more
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“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. ” 14 likes
“Hope was based on the unknown, and I liked knowing things. Like that I was going to fail. Failure had better odds. ” 7 likes
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