In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

1. First lines 2. Publisher Daunt Books;  Coffee House Press 3. Crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert From Simpson’s Spring to Short Cut Pass, Granite Mountain in the distance. [Public Domain] Source: Wikimedia Commons
Gritty. Intense. Extreme.

Plot summary: In the early 19th Century, 15 year-old Hakan and his brother emigrate to America from Sweden, but they are separated and Hakan goes to California. Hakan travels towards the east (New York, where he believes his brother has gone). Over time, he grows into a huge man, meets friends and adversaries, learns to live in the wilderness, and becomes a legend referred to as “The Hawk”.

Quotes from the book:

  • “As Hakan walked past each convoy, people quieted down and stared at him from under their hats and bonnets, their eyes invisible in the strip of shade cast by the brims.”
  • “Through countless frosts and thaws, he walked in circles wider than nations. And then he stopped.”
  • “They finally cast anchor in what appeared to be, strangely, a ghost harbour: it was full of half-sunken ships looted and abandoned by crews that had deserted the goldfields.”

Extract online at Literary Hub and on Overdrive


  • “One of the many delights of ‘In the Distance, which was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer prize in the US, is the way the writing oscillates between the austere and the lyrical, the realistic and the dream-like. The result is a singular and deeply affecting portrait of one man’s life in a rapidly changing world, unlike any old-school or revisionist western I’ve experienced.” Full review: The Guardian
  • “A gorgeously written novel that charts one man’s growth from boyhood to mythic status as he journeys between continents and the extremes of the human condition.”  Pulitzer Prize Finalist Citation

Notable Awards:

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