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A "riveting family saga" (Mary Karr) , set in the American West, about sibling rivalry, dark secrets, and a young girl's struggle with freedom and artistic desire

In the years after World War II, the bleak yet beautiful plains of South Dakota still embody all the contradictions - the ruggedness and the promise - of the old frontier. This is a place where you can eat strawberries from wild vines, where lightning reveals a boundless horizon, where descendants of white settlers and native Indians continue to collide; and where, for most, there are limited options.

René shares a home, a family, and a passion for dance with her older brother, Leon. Yet for all they have in common, their lives are on remarkably different paths. In contrast to René, a born spitfire, Leon is a gentle soul. The only boy in their ballet class, Leon silently endures often brutal teasing. Meanwhile, René excels at everything she touches, basking in the delighted gaze of their father, whom Leon seems to disappoint no matter how hard he tries.

As the years pass, René and Leon's parents fight with increasing frequency - and ferocity. Their father - a cattle broker - spends more time on the road, his sporadic homecomings both yearned for and dreaded by the children. And as René and Leon grow up, they grow apart. They grasp whatever they can to stay afloat - a word of praise, a grandmother's outstretched hand, the seductive attention of a stranger - as René works to save herself, crossing the border into a larger, more hopeful world, while Leon embarks on a path of despair and self-destruction.

Tender, searing, and unforgettable, The Distance Home is a profoundly American story spanning decades - a tale of haves and have-nots, of how our ideas of winning and losing, success and failure, lead us inevitably into various problems with empathy and caring for one another. It's a portrait of beauty and brutality in which the author's compassionate narration allows us to sympathize, in turn, with everyone involved.

Advance praise for The Distance Home

"A family's story - its past, its 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

"A bracing and beautiful novel about a fierce struggle for love and understanding." - Maile Meloy, author of Do Not Become Alarmed



About the Author

Paula Saunders

Paula Saunders grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota. She danced as an apprentice with the Harkness Ballet in New York City under the direction of David Howard. She is a graduate of Barnard College, as well as the Syracuse University creative writing program, and was awarded a post-graduate Albert Schweitzer Fellowship in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany, under then-Schweitzer chair Toni Morrison. She lives in California with her husband. They have two grown daughters.



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