Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Inside by Alix Ohlin

I've said it before. I'll say it again. I like cleverly crafted books. And so I loved Inside.

From the dust jacket:  When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress, as unencumbered as humanly possible by any personal attachments. And Mitch, Grace's ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he's desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. We follow these four compelling, complex characters from Montreal and New York to Hollywood and Rwanda, each of them with a consciousness that is utterly distinct and urgently convincing. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to -- and responsible for -- those dearest to us.

By its very nature, this book could be disjointed. We follow the stories of three distinctly different, well-developed characters. (see above) And, on top of everything, as the novel unfolds, we jump forward and backward through time. But, in the hands of master storyteller Alix Ohlin, this story flows seamlessly. She bends and twists the separate threads of each character's story. Sometimes the threads marry and sometimes they part. However, throughout it all, the reader remains engaged. No wonder Inside was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012. 

Three sentences that caught me... 'People like Hilary and Alan were only temporary runaways. They would always go home; they belonged to the place they came from. Other people were destined to keep leaving, over and over again.' (p. 229)

I bought Inside from Chapters Indigo