In the Distance
Why this book?
Hernán Díaz’s first novel, In the Distance, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The book is gorgeously written and meticulously researched. The West’s huge, startling landscapes loom on every page. But the real genius here is the novel’s “reverse epic” structure—how Díaz takes a young Swedish immigrant who gets off his ship at the wrong port (San Francisco) and sends him traveling east, against the migrant tides, in search of his brother. The journey doesn’t go as planned. Håkan makes friends and stymies enemies. Stereotypes warp and tumble as Håkan (and the reader) are forever transformed. The descriptions of California gold fields, science expeditions, questing Mormons, and other frontier communities delight and confound. You’ll never cross a Western desert the same way again.