It's easy to compare "Miles from Nowhere" to a book like Denis Johnson's "Jesus' Son". Both are told in fragmentary, seemingly disconnected vignettes. Both involve a troubled, seemingly broken main character, stumbling their way through a drug infested, scabbed-up underworld. Both highlight people who are screw ups, or are screwing up. And both grapple with the horrors of heroin. But for every similarity there is, "Miles from Nowhere" rests in a fictional world all its own. For one, "Miles from Nowhere" features a rich, believably messed up main character. For as memorable and as powerful as "Jesus' Son" is, the richness and depth of its main character are not the books strong suits. "Jesus' Son" does feature good characters, don't get me wrong- but "Miles from Nowhere" has the advantage of telling a coming of age story. We see our main character Joon as a very young woman, writhing from adolescence to adulthood. We see her truly grow, truly change, in a way that is transformative for both her and the reader. We see her make mistakes, seek redemption, and through the countless bad moves she makes, Joon and the narrative itself somehow absolves us, the readers, of our own sins. It is ultimately a book that tells you one thing: that you are never really broken, that you can never fall too far.
Fleeing her 1980s Bronx family home in the wake of her unfaithful father's abandonment and her mother's mental illness, Korean teen Joon struggles through an adolescence marked by homeless shelters, addiction, and demeaning jobs.