Book rev. of Hernan Diaz’s In The Distance

This book review, written by Elliott Turner, can be found here:—in-the-distance–latino-book-review.html  As always, please visit the original site if possible.


​The antebellum American West serves as the landscape for Hernan Diaz’s story of a Swedish immigrant named “the Hawk” who futilely searches for his lost brother.

From the violent California Gold Rush to the lawless pioneer trail, the Hawk travels Eastward, against the flow, hoping to find his brother eventually in New York City. However, the Hawk, a mountain of a man, runs into bandits, grifters, corrupt politicians, thieves, and murderers. He grows to loathe the company of other people, isolating himself and then ultimately rejecting the American dream – and hopes of seeing his brother – after seeing the land’s ugly underside.

In The Distance, like Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, relies on a foreigner with a noble mission to shed light on the often perverse values that underlied America’s Westward expansion. The Hawk finds one decent man on the wagon trail, a man of science, who almost leads them to death in the great desert of modern day Utah. ​

The pacing is excellent throughout, both on a paragraph and chapter level. Also, Diaz has dug deep into historical archives to pepper the story with details about life at the time – from how to load and fire a singleshot musket to building a mound hut and digging an underground cave bunker.

The carefully constructed sentences are long in length, and reflect the wanderings of Hawk. This may test some reader’s patience, but they don’t distract from this tale of isolation and frustration.

In The Distance is a methodical, haunting glance at the true dark heart of the antebellum American West.

Hernan Diaz is the author of Between History & Eternity; his fiction debut, In the Distance, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and short-listed for the Saroyan Prize for Innovative Fiction.

In the Distance is published by Coffee House Press. Click here to purchase.

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