nami mun’s miles from nowhere — a brief review from the guardian:
Individuals living on the margins of society tend to be portrayed as hardbitten, resilient, vulnerable — yet Joon (“like the month, but spelled like themoon”), a young Korean immigrant foraging for herself in 1980s New York, is a pragmatic rather than romantic innocent. With her father absent and her mother breaking down, Joon leaves their Bronx neighbourhood, severing all connection. We follow her progress from 13-year-old in a homeless shelter to 18-year-old semi-respectability via prostitution, drug addiction and thieving. Relayed in a series of sharply delineated, matter-of-fact chapters, Joon’s desperate life and times are shot through with outrageous characters, transient loves and wisecracking dialogue. Brief, balanced and gritty, Nami Mun’s debut shows much promise.
ginnah howard’s night navigation
Ginnah Howard’s first novel opens on a cold March night in upstate New York with a woman and her 37-year-old son en route to a detox facility. Del is an anxious person who would prefer not to drive, a “worry-bird,” as her son, Mark, says, “120 pounds of nervous coming at you.” In her rush to get to the hospital on time, she misses the exit to the Thruway and ends up on icy Route 5. When Mark takes over the driving, Del suddenly feels the car slide off the road, “but no impact, no impact,” and “for a few seconds they sit and are grateful.” This is the only moment Del and Mark will be at rest.
Set in 2002, “Night Navigation” tracks these two characters as they frantically seek redemption and recovery, with little hope of achieving either. Mark, a bipolar heroin addict, blames his mother for the suicides of his father and brother. He has been to all kinds of treatment centers, experiencing everything from what he calls the “Just Say No school of persuasion” to the “going to break you open, then put you back together” model of some hard-core therapeutic communities. He believes that if only his medications (“the plod, plod of them”) would stop dividing his thoughts “into little cubes that keep rearranging themselves — cubes with numbers click, click, clicking — maybe he could eat the way of doing things right up.” But he never does.