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Inside Paperback – May 28 2012
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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.See all Product Description
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The description made it seem like this book had a decent storyline, but I became really bored about half way through.Published on July 18 2014 by Maria Casacalenda (Big City Bookworm)
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2014 by Samiam
I really enjoyed Alix Ohlin's novel, which centres on the lives of four troubled and complex characters. Read morePublished on Dec 14 2013 by aloveofreading
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 on Nov. 16 2013 by ab
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
Really enjoyed this book; well written, intriguing story and great characters. I would have loved it except that it is a dark story.Published on Oct. 16 2013 by Kathryn Philipps
The characters left me somewhat dissatisfied as did the ending. That said, I loved the concept of lives intertwined. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2013 by Melanie Rae Allard
Being from montreal, I instantly recognized the landmarks the author described with such vivid details. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2013 by S. Gatien