How Far Is the Ocean from Here: Book summary and reviews of How Far Is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn

How Far Is the Ocean from Here

A Novel

By Amy Shearn

How Far Is the Ocean from Here
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2008,
    320 pages.

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About this book

Book Summary

A beautiful debut novel that contemplates relationships, responsibility, betrayal, and longing.

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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"An accomplished and sophisticated debut ... [T]he cast is fully and compassionately realized, making for an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship." - Publishers Weekly.

"Her narrative skills 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." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Shearn gives us a touching, funny, and lyrically written story with well-drawn characters seeking acceptance and peace." - Library Journal.

"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.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Marjorie Thrasher
An unbelievable tale. . .
In my opinion there were parts of this book that were beautifully written--and it was a quick read--but I just couldn't believe in the characters. Not one normal person to be found! A fantasy, perhaps. I'll be interested to read her next novel.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Linda
Too Old For This Book
Although the concept of surrogate motherhood is intriguing, this book is not compelling for me. There is no character in the book with whom I can identify. It seems every character is intentionally quirky, making the book unbalanced. There is no normal from which to play..

I'd call this a 'kitchen sink' book. Every simile, metaphor, descriptive phrase that caught Shearn's attention seems to be in included in this book. There could be several books among the ideas in this one book. One overriding theme is isolation.

Watch for this author. She has potential As she matures, so will her writing. Perhaps I'm too old for this book!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Christine
How Far is the Ocean From Here
From the opening pages of How Far is the Ocean from Here, there is a sense of desperation and desolation. Its characters, as well as its landscape, are haunted by broken dreams and unfulfilled desires, living ghosts of lives that might have been. Each disconnected from their families and in search of anyone that they can relate to. Susannah Prue, a surrogate mother who runs away "to think things out", is so well crafted that you do not know whether to love her or hate her. Amy Shearn's writing drives you to find out how they got to this place. Her words, stark yet beautiful like the southwest desert in the novel, build an environment where these people can finally come together through fate and a shared longing to belong. This truly is a remarkable first novel and I look forward to more from Amy Shearn.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Patricia
Congratulations, you're pregnant!
The awe factor of a pregnant woman is high. Onlookers can only guess at the circumstances and decisions that created the child, hypothesize the outcome. How Far is the Ocean from Here deals with a common, albeit contemporary, set of circumstances: couple tries numerous times to get pregnant, fails, weighs options and hires a surrogate to carry their baby. As the story begins Susannah is rethinking her decision to become a surrogate, pondering her future in “otherhood”. Amy Shearn writes as the situation dictates, thoughts racing through Susannah’s mind, everything just slightly out of control. Fast read, quirky and humorous yet events and characters will remain with the reader long after the book has been finished. Highly recommended!

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kathy
How Far Is The Ocean From Here
Amy Shearn writes beautifully at times, however her sentences tend to be wordy. I often found myself lost midway through a sentence and had to back track to the beginning. As a result, I found this book very slow-going and never felt a connection to the characters or the story line. The ending was over-the-top in a way that I really dislike. Just when you think the story will resolve itself, the author throws in one more major crisis, then leaves the reader to guess what exactly happened between the end of chapter nine and the beginning of chapter ten.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Darlene
Keep reading...it's a good book!
Having put the concentrated effort of getting through the wordy paragraph long sentences at the beginning of the book, I was rewarded with an enjoyable read. Quirky? Definitely! Great storyline! Believable characters? Maybe not for some readers, but for me believable enough to want to slap some sense into them every now and then. I was invested in them (and am non-violent).

Book clubs? Definitely! Younger readers? I'd say read it first and you decide as there are some issues (including the main plot) that draw strong opinions. Bottom line...hang in there, and enjoy.

...13 more reader reviews

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