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Miles from Nowhere

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  2,582 ratings  ·  446 reviews
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 the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes ...more
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published January 2nd 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published March 13th 2008)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,582 ratings  ·  446 reviews

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Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary. Gripping. Harrowing. Moving. Hopeless. Hopeful. A truly gorgeous book about a young woman whose parents failed her so she made a life for herself on the streets. Unforgettable.
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sad, harrowing novel and a bewildering one to rate. Miles from Nowhere follows thirteen-year-old Joon as she navigates the streets of New York. Her father abandoned her and her mother, and her mother suffered from a severe mental illness with no ability to take care of Joon, so Joon left to fend for herself. Joon’s adolescent years span a homeless shelter to an escort club to jobs selling cosmetics and then more. Throughout this, Joon suffers from drug addiction and a number of damaging ...more
Nov 22, 2008 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
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 10, 2008 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 ...more
Peter Derk
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, mfa-palahniuk
Well holy shit.

If you like bleak books and minimalist writing, hit this one.

As a challenge to my fellow readers: A minimalist book that is not bleak or depressing? I'm just curious. It seems like a lot of minimalism comes from a sad place.

Has anyone come across anything?
Erika Schoeps
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm able to exhale again now that I've finished this.

It's an addiction novel, possibly a memoir (even though the author and the main character have different names). Addiction novels have set arcs, and this one doesn't diverge from that arc too much. We don't see her redemption (as is the norm), but our ending hints at it.

But it's possible to believe it doesn't occur. She almost "escapes" her lifestyle in previous chapters, but the sense of inevitably that comes with addiction is ever present.
Oct 20, 2008 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.
Wisteria Leigh
Nov 07, 2008 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 03, 2009 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
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
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fiction, 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.
I absolutely adore this book. I took my time with it, even reading some passages aloud to myself. I was blown away by the beauty and strength of the prose. I will read pretty much anything she writes. It inspired me to write. It's one of those books that seems like it could just keep going, and does, somehow, after the story on the page runs out.

Love love love
xTx xTx
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
this was easy, nice, bad reading. i loved her story and her struggles. i loved the pretty flashes in here. lots of lovely, delicate details rendered beautifully.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow - this book drew me in from the beginning and never let up. Can’t say I’d recommend it to everyone though; it has lots of triggers: sexual abuse, drug addiction, abandonment. Beautifully written, raw, stark. This one will stay with me for a while.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2019
Quiet and powerful. Lovely and heartbreaking. This book is quite the powerhouse. I loved the way it was written, seeing little chunks of Joon’s life wrapped together with sentences that essays could be written about. After working on the psych floor for three weeks, this book found me at the right time.

“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.”
Jan 10, 2013 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
Becky Osmon
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oof is this a punch to the teeth. The spare, beautiful writing is a counterpoint to the horrific stories of a young girl on the streets. Prostitution, assault, drug abuse, and the teensiest bit of light through the cracks - for me a journey into a hidden world.
Deirdre Skaggs
Nov 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009-reads, giveaways
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
Nov 23, 2008 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
Mar 20, 2011 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 ...more
Dec 27, 2008 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 ...more
Feb 08, 2009 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.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miles From Nowhere may be the most raw, visceral novel I have ever read. It was recommended to my best friend by Chuck Palahniuk, and my friend lent it to me. I expected a challenge. I knew it was about a teenage runaway in 1980s NYC. I knew the people who recommended it like emotionally rough stories. I was still not prepared for it. It was definitely my hardest read of 2018.

The writing was not the problem. I enjoyed the way it felt like someone genuinely recounting the events of her life. The
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I found this book in the library, I literally gasped upon reading the summary on the back. It seemed like complete Five Star Material. However, as soon as I sat down at a table by the window and started reading, I knew it wouldn't be. This turned out to be trite, miserable, and needlessly vile. I feel like I've read this story a thousand times. However, I appreciated the style of this + Mun's use of figurative language.
This has almost the exact same tone and voice of Shelter by Jung Yun,
A young girl who was emotionally (and physically) abused by her Korean immigrant parents runs away to live on the streets of New York. An astonishing collection of her stories as she desperately at times barely survives.
Some sections of the book were published on their own as short stories. But all together, it is an incredible story to read.
I had this book on my shelf for a number of years and I am glad that I finally found my way to read it.
It is not an uplifting read but so worth it.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. A friend let me borrow this book. It’s a tough subject and a tough read. It wasn’t what I expected and felt a little roughed up after finishing it. The title has so many different meanings and depending on where you were n the book is what it meant or might mean to you.
Hannah Thomas
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Hope was based on the unknown, and I liked knowing things. Like that I was going to fail. Failure had better odds. You could depend on it.”

Oct 04, 2009 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
Bob Redmond
Jul 11, 2009 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,
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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 ...more
“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
“Life's only as bad as you make it out to be. It's go nothing to do with the way it is.” 11 likes
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