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How Far Is The Ocean From Here

A "hugely auspicious debut," How Far Is The Ocean From Here (Shaye Areheart/Crown, 2008) was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s Hot Reads of the Summer, and a Notable Debut Novel by Poets & Writers. It was also featured on NPR, as part of WPR's Chapter a Day program.

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 unusual 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.

The book 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.

BONUS: Amy ran a "Best Worst Motel Story" contest when HFITOFH was released, and you can read all the amazing (funny, sad, awful, great) reader-submitted stories here!

Selected Praise for HFITOFH:

“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 

"Read it for the kamikaze adventure, for the bone-dry, liberating landscape, and for the stirrings of love in a barren life.”

 -O, The Oprah Magazine

“Amy Shearn's first novel, "How Far Is the Ocean From Here," is a satisfying summer read for the author's celebratory love of language; the narrative's sensual, visceral terrain; and its theme of high-stakes risk-taking.”

 -The San Francisco Chronicle

“Shearn's mesmerizing language and dramatic flair make this first novel a standout.” ​
  -The Washington Post

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

 -Publishers Weekly

“Shearn has a powerful empathy for the lost and the damaged, and she does well by this little family of misfits… a formidable talent.”


“Amy Shearn has assembled a cast of oddballs in her first novel…She clearly has affection for all her creations, endowing each one with a convincingly flawed humanity.”

 –The Boston Globe

“She has a glorious way of description, conjuring vivid images with brevity and wit…This is an author to read now and definitely watch in the future.”

 -Dallas Morning News

A “sure-footed debut…an appealing novel, showcasing a new talent whose wit will make readers happy to follow her anywhere.”

 -New West

“Shearn has written an absorbing, energetically offbeat novel that merits attention. How Far Is The Ocean From Here reconfigures the notion of family through a journey to the edges of the characters’ lives and back.”

 -Kansas City Star

“Accomplishing a seemingly impossible goal, the novel sustains the quality and language of a short story for 320 pages…this is an emotionally sophisticated first book, well-written and well-crafted.”

  -Fiction Writers Review

“…with a constantly hurdling pace, the novel is hard to put down, thanks to the story’s interlocking points of view and thought-provoking internal monologues. Shearn’s strength lies in her elaborately constructed sentences, which are intricately laced with the novel’s theme of empathetic communication.”

 -Minnesota Daily


.."the weirdest, funniest saddest road novel I’ve ever read…"

 -Huffington Post

“Amy Shearn's first work of fiction is nothing short of marvelous; beautifully written with a well-crafted plot and an interesting set of characters, it is at once witty, hopeful and heartbreakingly sad. This tale of life and death, change and possibility, love, friendship and the search for one's true self is highly recommended. It has the stark and unusual beauty, brutal honesty and seductive rhythms of the southwestern landscape in which it is set.”

 -Book Reporter

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