How Far Is the Ocean from Here

How Far Is the Ocean from Here

4.3 6
by Amy Shearn
     
 

“An accomplished and sophisticated debut...an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship.” —Publishers Weekly

Susannah Prue is a young, unmarried surrogate mother who, in the days before her delivery date, panics. Jumping into her car, she flees her Chicago home and a few days later pulls up to a bleak motel

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Overview

“An accomplished and sophisticated debut...an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship.” —Publishers Weekly

Susannah Prue is a young, unmarried surrogate mother who, in the days before her delivery date, panics. Jumping into her car, she flees her Chicago home and a few days later pulls up to a bleak motel in the Southwest—the Thunder Lodge. There, she encounters misfits, much like herself, who also carry secrets: the motel’s terse proprietors, their mentally disabled son, and a woman transporting her niece to the father she’s never met. But when the parents of Susannah’s baby discover her whereabouts, she can no longer ignore the profound power she holds over their lives.

Beautifully written, How Far Is the Ocean from Here explores the ways in which people care for one another and the ways in which they fail, the kinds of families we create when we have no one else to turn to, and the strangeness and unpredictability of love.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] tantalizing novel….Shearn’s mesmerizing language and dramatic flair make this first novel a standout.”
Washington Post Book World

“Amy Shearn’s first novel is a hugely auspicious debut. Sentence by sentence, the writing stays sharp and memorable, and the plot slyly takes us on a road-trip that is both frightening and comic. In a culture where hardly anyone knows what parenting is anymore, this novel has a story to tell on the subject, a story that rises incrementally in speed and momentum, from the first page to the last.”
—Charles Baxter, author of Feast of Love

“Once in a while you read a first novel in which the narrative hand is so steady, the characters so lively and original, that you finish it certain you’ll be hearing a lot more from this author. Amy Shearn’s How Far Is the Ocean From Here is just such a book—funny, engaging, and captivating from beginning to end.”
—Mark Childress, author of One Mississippi and Crazy in Alabama

How Far Is the Ocean from Here is a lyrical storm populated by runaway surrogate mothers, ghost boys, half-girls, haunted caves, desert motels,parents of all stripes, sacred lakes, and swimming pools that swirl and collide until finally getting blown together across America’s highways into an unforgettable conclusion.”
—Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else

“An accomplished and sophisticated debut...an affecting portrayal of the lengths peopletravel for love and companionship.”
Publishers Weekly

Jane Ciabattari
Amy Shearn's idiosyncratic narrator and the damaged children she befriends anchor this tantalizing novel about a surrogate mother who has second thoughts just weeks before her due date…Shearn's mesmerizing language and dramatic flair make this first novel a standout.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

As Shearns's accomplished and sophisticated debut opens, "hugely pregnant" Susannah Prue hides out deep in the desolate Texas-New Mexico border area desert, at the ramshackle Thunder Lodge motor inn. There she meets a variety of misfits, including the owners' mentally disabled teenage son and another guest's sexually confused niece, who become an essential if dysfunctional adoptive family to desperate, on-the-lam Susannah. Passive and oft-disappointed, Susannah made a fateful choice in deciding to serve as a surrogate mother to the wealthy but infertile Forsythes, Kit and Julian. The relationships among the three, we eventually learn, spiraled into tragedy, but the birth is imminent. Shearn's narration is fluid, shifting seamlessly among perspectives and time frames. The Forsythes verge on hard-edged rich-person caricature, but the rest of the cast is fully and compassionately realized, making for an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Susannah Prue is a surrogate mother on the run and ready to give birth. She has fled Chicago and the Forsythes, the baby's biological parents, in a car that makes it as far as a kitschy Southwestern motel. Her third-trimester panic has been brewing for some time, as she learns more about Kit and Julian Forsythe, wealthy, educated, yet often shallow and emotionally dysfunctional. The Thunder Lodge Motor Inn, inhabited by owners Marlon and Char Garland and their developmentally disabled teenaged son, Tim, is an unlikely oasis for Susannah. Other guests arrive, including Dicey and her hermaphrodite niece, Frankie. These unlikely inhabitants create a sort of impromptu family-complete with bickering and compassion and trips to nearby roadside attractions. With Susannah's due date drawing near and her car still waiting for repairs, she makes a last-ditch attempt to reach the ocean, taking Frankie and Tim with her. Shearn gives us a touching, funny, and lyrically written story with well-drawn characters seeking acceptance and peace. The awkward and unlikely flash-forward at the end reads like an unnecessary after-thought but shouldn't keep readers away from this satisfying first novel. Recommended for larger fiction collections.
—Jenn B. Stidham

Kirkus Reviews
A disoriented surrogate mother goes on the lam in this uneven first novel. Dusk in the West Texas desert; a stranger in trouble arrives at a desolate motel. The hotel owners are a harmless old couple; the stranger is, initially, a threat only to herself. Marlon and Char Garland have their hands full coping with their handsome, severely retarded son, 17-year-old Tim. Susannah Prue's case is more complicated. The young Chicago woman, notably pregnant, her due date approaching, has been on the road for days. When the bookstore clerk agreed to act as a surrogate mother for the middle-aged Kit and Julian Forsythe, it was not just for the generous payments. Always the bit player in others' lives, Susannah grabbed at the chance to be the star, realizing too late she was just "the hired gun." What propelled her out of town were the confusing, inappropriate attentions of flaky Julian, and signs unrelated to her predicament. Now her magical thinking (an overused device) is pulling her toward the ocean, that old metaphor for limitless possibilities; she doesn't give proximity to a hospital a thought. At the motel Susannah is joined by other guests: a woman called Dicey and her seven-year-old niece Frankie, a hermaphrodite being raised, over her protests, as a girl. The drama intensifies when Susannah hits the road again, "borrowing" Dicey's car, and taking Tim and Frankie with her (they insisted). Shearn has a powerful empathy for the lost and the damaged, and she does well by this little family of misfits; she is less convincing with middle-class success stories (Kit, a snippy control freak, is a caricature), and the drama inherent in the Susannah/Julian/Kit triangle goes to waste. Her narrativeskills are often ragged, with viewpoints sliding around like butter in a skillet, and the climax is botched. Shearn only needs to add artistic discipline to her other gifts to be a formidable talent. Agent: PJ Mark/McCormick & Williams Literary Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307405340
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/22/2008
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.13(d)

Meet the Author

AMY SHEARN’s work has appeared in Jane, West Branch, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn. This is her first novel.

Visit her at amyshearn.com

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