Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, by Ursula K. LeGuin

September’s book review is on Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, by Ursula K. LeGuin, a recent gift from my son. Only 87 pages long, the book is easily read in one sitting. Good thing, too, as it’s hard to put down. Today when I was preparing to write this post, I read most of it again.

Very Far Away

Seventeen-year-old Owen is gifted in science and math, yet naive about interacting with people, particularly kids his own age. As I read his story, I wasn’t thinking about all teenagers or myself as a teenager or parallels to real life; I was just absorbing the details of Owen’s life, the way he tolerated classes and teachers and peers he didn’t like without being rude. His upbringing conditioned him to go along with the program. no matter how he felt about it. His mom was the sort who supported her husband. His dad was the sort who worked hard to make enough money to buy Owen a car.

Enter Natalie, a girl from school who turns out to be polite, thoughtful,and honest enough to interact with Owen on an intelligent, natural level. She’s someone who’s easy to talk to, who shares her plans, and who makes him feel most like his true self. Because of the pressure he feels from peers, Owen isn’t sure what to do, much less what to think or what he hopes will happen between him and Natalie.

It’s a coming-of-age story that made me try to remember what was going on in my head when I was a teen. Did I have a friend with whom I could be as honest as Owen was? Did you have such a friend?

It’s hard to realize that the really important things are just normal little happenings and decisions…” (Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, page 17)

Who Would Like This Book
Unlike LeGuin’s science fiction, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else is a realistic novel. Published in 1976, the book remains popular with adults as well as young adults. I’d recommend it to fans of LeGuin, to teens, and to readers who enjoy thinking about why we are the way we are.

Posted on September 1, 2015

2 thoughts on “Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, by Ursula K. LeGuin

  1. After you posted this review, I checked out the ebook on my kindle and had a very enjoyable read. Thanks for the recommendation! As an adult reading this book, I found that I empathized a bit with the parents. They were not meaning to put so much pressure on their son, but they were very successful at it anyway! I’m sure I do that with my own kids! I really liked how the choices the son made brought about new ways of interacting with his parents and new choices on their part, too (that sort of catch him by surprise). Generally, Le Guin did a nice job of demonstrating the tenuous process of a boy becoming a man.

    1. How nice that you read the book, Laurie! Matt thought so, too. 🙂

      Thanks for your insights. I think we can be pretty hard on ourselves as parents and may be surprised to find that our kids not only love and forgive us, no matter how many mistakes we make, but also think highly of their upbringing.

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