The Distance Home (Random House)
Paula Saunders graduated from the Syracuse University Creative Writing program, where she studied with Tobias Wolff and Douglas Unger. It was during this time that she and her husband, the writer, George Saunders, met and married. After Syracuse, Paula was the recipient of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Fellowship in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany, where she spent two year studying under then-Schweitzer Chair, Toni Morrison.
Paula’s debut novel, The Distance Home is a profoundly American story. Set in the landscape and culture of rural 1960s South Dakota, the book is a near autobiographical look at a loving but struggling young family in turmoil, and of two siblings, Rene and Leon. Rene is the apple of her father’s eye: an over-achiever, athletic, clever, the best brains in class, and the best dancer in school. Her older brother, Leon, doted on by his mother, is shy, a stutterer, but also a brilliant dancer. Rene and Leon share a talent for dance, but it is a gift their father adores in his daughter, and loathes in his son. It is this distinctive American dichotomy that Paula explores: What is to become of the vulnerable in a culture of striving and power? And what is the effect of this striving and power on both those who dominate and those who are overrun? It is a deeply affecting novel, in which the author’s compassionate narration allows us to sympathize, in turn, with everyone involved.
Praise for The Distance Home
"Paula Saunders’ The Distance Home is a bracing and beautiful novel about a fierce struggle for love and understanding in a South Dakota family, and about aspiration (both thwarted and encouraged) in an unforgiving place. Read it—it will break your heart and open it up."—Maile Meloy, author of Do Not Become Alarmed
“In Paula Saunders’ The Distance Home, a family’s story--its past, present, and (most surprising) its future--traces the intricate, often subterranean lines that connect damage to redemption, creation to dissolution, and the everyday to the eternal, just to name several of its moving and startling aspects. It’s a true, and rare, accomplishment.”—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
“Paula Saunders’ The Distance Home is a coming-of-age story of an artistically talented girl who grows up amid the emotional turmoil of a dysfunctional family she yearns to save. Set in the isolation of South Dakota prairie towns and then the provincialism of Rapid City, this novel is an exemplary story of what hard-working people suffered in middle America in the late 20th century while striving to achieve dreams--material and personal--that always seemed just out of reach. Every word of The Distance Home should strike readers as honest, and true, and more--this soul-searching first novel offers everywhere that most mysterious and essential of artistic achievements: heart.”—Douglas Unger, author of Leaving the Land and Voices from Silence
"Paula Saunders has given us a riveting family saga for the ages. The Distance Home is fresh, with a seductive Midwestern innocence, though the book's outwardly ideal clan holds dark secrets that kept me turning pages in the wee hours. One of the best books I've read in years--destined to become a classic."—Mary Karr, author The Liars' Club, Cherry, and Lit
"The Distance Home is a deeply involving portrait of the American postwar family: its promises and disruptions; the brutal calculus whereby one sibling thrives at another’s expense—surrounded by a rich, shimmering, and sensuous South Dakota landscape.”—Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach
Photo by Chloe Aftel