cover image How Far Is the Ocean from Here

How Far Is the Ocean from Here

Amy Shearn, . . Crown/Shaye Areheart, $23 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-307-40534-0

As Shearns's accomplished and sophisticated debut opens, “hugely pregnant” Susannah Prue hides out deep in the desolate Texas-New Mexico border area desert, at the ramshackle Thunder Lodge motor inn. There she meets a variety of misfits, including the owners' mentally disabled teenage son and another guest's sexually confused niece, who become an essential if dysfunctional adoptive family to desperate, on-the-lam Susannah. Passive and oft-disappointed, Susannah made a fateful choice in deciding to serve as a surrogate mother to the wealthy but infertile Forsythes, Kit and Julian. The relationships among the three, we eventually learn, spiraled into tragedy, but the birth is imminent. Shearn's narration is fluid, shifting seamlessly among perspectives and time frames. The Forsythes verge on hard-edged rich-person caricature, but the rest of the cast is fully and compassionately realized, making for an affecting portrayal of the lengths people travel for love and companionship. (July)