Thursday, July 31, 2008

Review: How Far Is the Ocean from Here

In How Far Is the Ocean from Here, author Amy Shearn examines the ripple effects of a single decision, and the unlikely relationships formed when strangers need a family more than they need familiarity.

Susannah Prue signed on to a be a surrogate to matter to someone, to get attention for doing a noble thing, to feel a part of something after a life of many nothings. In the weeks before the birth, in a moment of panic, Susannah leaves Chicago (and the baby's parents), heading on an impromptu road trip to see the desert, to see the ocean, to find herself.

When her car breaks down in the vast stretch of land linking Texas and New Mexico, she settles in at the Thunder Lodge as its only resident, hoping to buy herself some time to think. It is at this decrepit, sad motel that the motley cast of characters comes together. There are Char and Marlon Garland, proprietors of the lodge, and their mentally disabled son, Tim, to whom Susannah is immediately drawn. When Dicey joins them, as a respite on her way to deliver her niece, Frankie, to her father in Arizona, a family of sorts is formed.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, the couple waiting for Susannah to deliver them a child, Julian and Kit, enter a new stage of waiting...and wondering how to get back the baby that belongs to them.

In the desert, time seems suspended, as the endless, dry days play out, repeating themselves over and over. But Susannah knows her due date looms, and that every day brings Julian and Kit closer to finding her. Again in a panic, she makes another rash decision that will alter the lives of everyone, with both disastrous and heart-warming results.

Have you ever read a book and imagined the movie version in your head?

That's how this book was for me from the very beginning. Perhaps it was the vivid descriptions of the desert landscape and the little motel in the middle of nowhere, or the peculiarity of the characters who could very easily come to life on a screen, or the relationships that were powerful and real enough to survive off of the page.

In her debut novel, Shearn paints with a unique brush a story that kept me wondering how it was all going to turn out, invested in every line.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I thought the same thing! It was very visual for me, as well.

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