How Far Is the Ocean from Here Summary and Reviews

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
    Genre: Novels

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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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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.

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!

Cathy

This is a MUST READ!
Did you ever make a mistake and think "Oh no! What the hell am I going to do now?" A mistake that affects not only your life but all the lives around you? If you have ever said the words "What if..." or "If only I had..." then this book is for you, young or old, male or female, child or adult. Susannah, a very young surrogate mother realizes that she has done something irrevocable and panics. The rest of the book is an extremely insightful and poignant look at relationships and choices made by Susannah and by all those around her and the consequences of those choices. A deep look into the human spirit, feelings, emotions, regrets, promises, and the unknown future.

This is an excellent book for discussion by book clubs and even if you don't belong to a book club you will want to go find someone to discuss this book with. Any one who reads this book will think of their own past, their own mistakes, their own choices, and will certainly relate to one of the interesting characters who are so well developed by the author that they seem alive. An amazing read, I couldn't put it down and I was sorry when it ended. Thank you Amy Shearn for giving us a book that is so intuitive and that touched my heart.

Susan

Perception vs. Reality
I loved this book! This is a tale of ambivalence. What makes one a mother? What is "normal"? Who am I? Susannah, Julian, Frankie, Kim, Dicey, and Tim all deal with how they are perceived with others and how they experience themselves. The setting is remarkably described; I felt I was truly in the desert with them. This will make a great film.

Debi

How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn
I very much enjoyed reading this book. Not only did it introduce me to eight uniquely, different people, but it also made me realize how our decisions, thoughts and actions can impact the lives of the people around us. I liked the way Ms. Shearn was able to make me feel like I was right there, with everyone, instead of reading a book about them. I also agree that this book would make an excellent book club selection.

Sandra

In My Humble Opinion....
This is the first book about surrogate motherhood that I have ever read. How Far Is the Ocean from Here is very well written and thought provoking. The author captured, for me, the real feeling of the desert and the feeling of isolation within Susannah. I enjoyed this book very much although I was frustrated and sympathetic at the same time (confusing for me!) with most of the characters! It would make for a great book club discussion.

...13 more reader reviews

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