Inside by Alix Ohlin
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Alix Ohlin
Format: ARC, 258 pages
Publisher: House of Anansi
Pub Date: June 16, 2012
Inside by Alix Ohlin is a novel focused on multiple characters who are not only connected by a relational web of what is known as six degrees of separation, but also by the novel’s theme: an inner and hidden story of suffering.
But, this is not a book to get depressed about. It reads easily and naturally, moving you to experience the characters’ regret, turmoil, and sometimes neurosis in an intimate way because the characters themselves are written so well and realistically that the reader is compelled by empathy to turn the page.
It begins with Grace (both in name and in context), a divorced therapist from Montreal, who, on a ski run discovers a man in the snow who had just failed to hang himself. From there, her professional instinct, attraction, and intrigue compels her to ensure his safety, which in time evolves into a relationship that evokes both comfort, escape, and risk.
Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband must battle issues of low self-esteem and delusions of failure in the midst of a complicated relationship with a competent, yet needy woman named Martine and her autistic son, Mathieu.
As the dynamics of their relationship unravels, so does Mitch’s need to escape to his work up north in Iqaluit. There he rediscovers the refuge and refusal of the Arctic as well as his limited powers of persuasion when it comes to a deeply disturbed, young man named Thomasie.
Annie, one of Grace’s former clients whose predisposition to self-multilate is hardened by her parents’ wealth, condescending expectations, and lack of attention. She finds power in her ability to transform herself as an aspiring actress both on stage, on-screen, and to herself where the disconnection of her lifestyle is further complicated with the arrival and acceptance of a pregnant runaway named Hilary and her boyfriend Alan.
Together these stories reveal the inner dynamics of private histories, introspection, and wounds, which for some, continue to be an emotional and destructive force, while for others, a learning process for acceptance, resignation, and renewal.
Inside is a multitude of stories revealing the inner geography of the human condition when circumcised by trauma and grief and the compulsion of choices made in order to emotionally survive.
It is as entertaining as it is devastating and as true as it is as imaginative. It is a collection and testament to the depth of our psychology and the raw beauty of our willingness to resign to both love and despair.
A special thank you to House of Anansi for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.