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Inside [Paperback]

Alix Ohlin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 28 2012 Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and selected as an Oprah's Book Club Summer Reading Pick

When Grace, a highly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man in the snowy woods who has failed to hang himself, her instinct to help immediately kicks in. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward.

At the same time, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away 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, 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 a razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the manifold dangers and imperatives of making ourselves available to, and indeed responsible for, those dearest to us.

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.. the next big thing in North American literature. (Terry Rigelhof 2012-05-22)

Ohlin displays a profound empathy for people at their least rational -- and most human. (Stephan Lee Entertainment Weekly 2012-06-06)

... wondrously engrossing ... (Boston Globe 2012-06-10)

... vividly pictorial ... Ohlin has as unsettling an old soul as Leonard Cohen’s. (T. F. Rigelhof Globe and Mail 2012-06-15)

... [Alix] Ohlin makes us care ... (Carol Ross Williamson Guelph Mercury 2012-06-15)

... [a] twisty, clever and captivating read ... this cunning writer yanks you inside her world. (Mary Pols San Francisco Chronicle 2012-06-27)

Can any of us really save another person? Or is each of us solely responsible for his or her own life? That's the question lurking behind Alix Ohlin's astute novel. (Leigh Newman Oprah Magazine 2012-07-01)

... a superb second novel ... next to brilliant phrases and scenes of laugh-eliciting satiric jabs, there are brutal, heartbreaking circumstances. (Brett Josef Grubisic National Post 2012-07-06)

... a serious literary talent. (Claire Hopley Washington Times 2012-07-19)

Ohlin writes in elegant prose that is flush with wit and style, as clever and as smooth as Lorrie Moore. (Sean Carman The Rumpus 2012-07-24)

Ohlin knows what she’s doing, and it dawns that what’s true of all good fiction applies even more emphatically here: Inside, though fully satisfying the first time through, all but demands a second reading. It’s something most readers will be more than happy to do. (Ian McGillis Montreal Gazette 2012-07-26)

... [an] extremely readable blend of poignancy and sardonic humour ... (Dory Cerny Quill and Quire 2012-08-01)

Alix Ohlin’s writing is brilliant. Readers will enjoy ‘Inside’ and will finish anticipating Ohlin’s future works; wanting to see how far she can go. (Digital Journal 2012-10-26)

About the Author

Alix Ohlin is the author of two novels, Inside and The Missing Person, and two story collections, Babylon and Other Stories and Signs and Wonders. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on NPR's "Selected Shorts." Born and raised in Montreal, she now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania and teaches at Lafayette College.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace in the gray zones of human nature Sept. 6 2012
By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER
Alix Ohlin is a writer born in Montreal, now living in Pennsylvania. She has been praised by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee as "a skillful storyteller, quick-witted and wry."

The novel opens with a striking scene of Grace experiencing sudden disorientation on a wintry Mount Royal in Montreal:

"Now, at the end of January, it had finally snowed all night and all day, at last enough to ski on. She slipped around the Chalet and headed into the woods, losing the vista of Montreal below, gaining muffled silence and solitude, the trees turning the light even fainter. One skier had been here before her, leaving a path of parallel stripes. On a slight downhill slope she crouched down and picked up speed as she moved around a bend.

Turning, she saw the branch or whatever it was too late. Though she tried to slow down, she wasn't quick enough and ran right into it and was knocked out of her skis, falling sideways into the snow, realizing only when she sat up that what had tripped her was the body of a man.

The air torn from her returned slowly, painfully, to her burning lungs. When she could breathe she said, `Are you all right?' There was no answer (...) Kneeling down to check his pulse, she saw the rope around his neck. Thick and braided, it trailed beneath him, almost nestled under his arm, and the other end rested on a snowbank - no, was buried underneath it - and on the other side she could see that the branch it had been tied to had broken off."

Inside follows up on this engaging opening scene of attempted suicide with the story of four characters - Grace, a therapist, and 3 others who are - or have been - connected closely to her.

"Grace" is a clever choice of name for the protagonist, because grace is in fact a central theme in the book. How uplifting it can be, but also how accidental, arbitrary, and ultimately inseparable from the gray zones and mixed motives that constitute human nature.

Recommended !
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Nov. 2 2012
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
New York Times book reviewer William Giraldi called it "insufferable schmaltz." The Giller committee short-listed it for one of Canada's most prestigious literary awards. Montreal-born Alix Ohlin's "Inside" has certainly provoked strong reactions, enough to make me curious about the origin of all the fuss.

The opening of Ohlin's novel describes Montreal psychotherapist, Grace, cross-country skiing on Mount Royal, where she comes across a man lying face down in the snow. She soon realizes that the man has unsuccessfully hanged himself from a tree and, instantly, Ohlin reveals the story's central questions: when someone has suffered something terrible, how far does another person's duty go to help? What do the helper's motives become beyond simple instinct?

In subsequent chapters, the rest of the book's cast emerges. Annie, Grace's self-harming teenager patient, eventually pursues an acting career in New York, where a runaway who reminds her of herself takes over her life; Tug, that man in the snow, tries to shake the demons of an encounter with a gruesome episode of African history; and Mitch, Grace's ex-husband, flees a troubled new relationship to do social work in the Canadian north and quickly finds himself in over his head.

Ohlin gives each character's story equal weight, partially overlapping them across time and place. This method can seem daunting to the reader and perhaps the author's strength as a short story writer gets in the way of writing a fully cohesive novel. Indeed, at times "Inside" reads more like a collection of linked stories containing disorienting shifts in space and time. But, if the reader pays close attention, Ohlin’s combination of smooth prose, thematic complexity and structural ambition makes for an equally accessible and demanding novel.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted work Dec 3 2012
This is the first book I've read by author Alex Ohlin, and as cliche as it sounds, it really was the type of novel that completely drew me into the lives of the four characters she portrays. The stories were heartbreaking and real, and I grew to actually care about the characters and the troubles they were facing. I couldn't put it down. If you're looking for action and adventure it's probably not the best choice, but if you like a good character-driven novel then I highly reccomend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Samiam
Format:Kindle Edition
This book was heartbreakingly sad and depressing. I thought it was really well written, and I "liked" the characters in the sense that they were fascinating (although they were mostly quite unlikeable). The main negative point is that I found the book ended abruptly. I didn't like not knowing what became of the characters. Did any of them find happiness? You can sort of assume how things ended but only in a very vague way. This made me almost hate the book by the time I finished it. I hate not knowing. I wanted more. But it's definitely a book that completely absorbs you, and I found myself thinking about the characters days after I read it. So overall...loved reading it. Didn't want to put it down. But also hated it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAPTIVATING AND ABSORBING! June 21 2013
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This story takes you into the lives of four very strong characters in different times and in different places.

It was wintertime in Montreal in the year 1996, when GRACE Tomlinson, a psychologist, was cross-country skiing on Mount-Royal. One of her clients had cancelled and so she was free to go skiing while it was still light. One skier had been there before her, leaving a path of parallel stripes. She crouched down and picked up speed and when she turned the bend she tripped over the body of a man. When Grace caught her breath she asked him if he was okay. He didn't respond. She knelt down to check the pulse in his neck. Grace noticed he had a rope around his neck and a branch was broken off. She untied the rope, loosened his clothes and skied off to the Chalet to call 911. In French, she tried to explain where in the woods they were. The Urgence Sante men arrived and took the man to the hospital. Grace followed them in her car. The Urgence Sante men assumed they were a couple. She wasn't sure why she was following, but she was curious to find out what would drive him to hang himself. Later on, she found out his name was John Tugwell. She waited for him and drove him home. Grace stayed with TUG, the name he told her to call him. She didn't want to leave him alone for fear he would try it again. Why did Tug want to end his life? Grace was interested to find out and she would soon find out so much more.

ANNIE Hardwick was sixteen years old and a patient of Grace. She aspired to be an actress. Her father was an orthodontist and her mother a lawyer. Annie's problem was cutting herself, inflicting self-injury. She had an assignment to do from her last session. She gave it to Grace. She wrote that she was pregnant.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh.
The description made it seem like this book had a decent storyline, but I became really bored about half way through.
Published 3 months ago by Maria Casacalenda
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A bit confussing
Published 3 months ago by Jean McAllister
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, Accessible, Awe-inspiring
I really enjoyed Alix Ohlin's novel, which centres on the lives of four troubled and complex characters. Read more
Published 10 months ago by aloveofreading
3.0 out of 5 stars weird
This was super easy to read but totally wasn't expecting it to finish so suddenly. I thought there was way more story left to read. Quiet disappointed.
Published 11 months ago by ab
5.0 out of 5 stars wanting more
This book really intrigued me when I chose it, and it really lived up to all the intrigue.
We are introduced to our two central characters Grace and Tug right from the first... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Novel Girl
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Really enjoyed this book; well written, intriguing story and great characters. I would have loved it except that it is a dark story.
Published 12 months ago by Kathryn Philipps
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written
The characters left me somewhat dissatisfied as did the ending. That said, I loved the concept of lives intertwined. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Melanie Rae Allard
4.0 out of 5 stars Earth shattering
Being from montreal, I instantly recognized the landmarks the author described with such vivid details. Read more
Published 21 months ago by S. Gatien
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but boring story.
Positives: Loved the author's writing style when she described scenes, emotions and of descriptions of Canadian scenes. The characters sounded real. Very easy read. Read more
Published 21 months ago by dollyrf
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful
great elaboration of characters, insightful and realistic.
the three main characters' stories were nicely intertwined.
I raced through it in 3 days.
Published 22 months ago by Dwane
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