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Inside (Borzoi Books) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 5, 2012
Everything We Keep: A Novel
On the day of her wedding, she buried her fiancé—and unearthed shocking secrets. Learn More
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“A woman mistakes a man for a log—and so starts Alix Ohlin’s engrossing novel, Inside. The novel jumps between decades, locations and characters with a precision that makes Ohlin’s hard work seem effortless. The novel is full of surprises and things to admire, but the writing is genuinely clever because it always serves the characters. Inside is a novel about people. It is beautifully crafted and beautifully told.” —From the citation for the Scotiabank Giller Prize nomination
“Spanning a twelve-year period, the story moves briskly between New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Kigali, and the Inuit community of Iqaluit. As the protagonists try, and fail, to establish connections with other human beings, Ohlin charts their small victories and larger disappointments. She is skilled at making her chilly cast of characters accessible, and even their most unlikely actions make sense, thanks to her tightly drawn portraits. And, while the novel’s premise is hardly comic, its Hollywood scenes show off the author’s satiric flair.” —The New Yorker
“Alix Ohlin’s wondrously engrossing Inside and Signs and Wonders display her characteristic strengths—dynamic plots, keenly observed settings, and characters so idiosyncratic, ambivalent, and contradictory they could be your family, your neighbors, people you work with… She has a rare gift for examining the confusions of the 21st century, exploring the ways in which addictions, afflictions, attractions, and random impulses shape our lives. Her intense and beautifully shaped new novel and stories offer tentative yet illuminating answers.” —Jane Ciabattari, The Boston Globe
“A writer who should be famous… Ohlin has as unsettling an old soul as Leonard Cohen’s.” —T.F. Rigelhof, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Superb [and] captivating… Next to brilliant phrases and scenes of laugh-eliciting satiric jabs, there are brutal, heartbreaking circumstances.” —Bret Josef Grubisic, National Post
“Ohlin’s combination of smooth prose, thematic reach and structural ambition makes for a novel that is both easily accessible and demanding in the best of ways… 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
“An original novel about a timeless theme: the persistent difficulty of loving and well-meaning people to connect to one another.... Ohlin writes in elegant prose that is flush with wit and style, as clever and smooth as Lorrie Moore.... The closing lines of Inside are like a rose in winter bloom. Ohlin's novel runs with an undercurrent of hopelessness. Her characters have a hollow-ness inside. But Inside is, ultimately, a novel about hope. It begins with a gesture of despair and ends with one of promise. Who are these people? They are all of us.” —Sean Carman, The Rumpus
“Twisty, clever, and captivating... Dynamic.... There’s no fuss in Ohlin’s pointed prose, but plenty of insight... the title also makes for an unintended endorsement of Ohlin’s skills; this cunning writer yanks you inside her world.” —Mary Pols, The Philadelphia Enquirer
“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 [this] astute novel... Ohlin is a master short-story writer (see Signs and Wonders), and the early chapters may feel like discrete tales. Very soon, though, you'll see how they're all intertwined.” —Leigh Newman, Oprah.com
“Twisty, clever, and captivating… this cunning writer yanks you inside her world.” —Mary Pols, The San Francisco Chronicle
“Psychologically astute, emotionally resonant… Ohlin allows her readers to know her characters more fully than any of them will ever know each other… A quiet novel populated with beautifully drawn, complex characters that will get inside the heart as well as the head.” —Florina Pendley Vasquez, Shelf Awareness
“You can’t help but become invested in Inside. Ohlin displays a profound empathy for people at their least rational—and most human.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A memorable read….consistently surprising, often devastating as the protagonists find themselves unable to share what’s on the inside.” —BookPage
“Alix Ohlin is a crazy talented writer, smart and soulful. Inside is, in a word, stunning.” —Beverly Lowry
“In her gripping novel, Alix Ohlin covers vast geographical and emotional territory. With extraordinary power, she takes us inside the profound and fragile connections of her deeply human characters—each searching for salvation from the past while struggling to find forgiveness and redemption in the present. This story of surprising turns, grace, and compassion left me feeling that my world and my heart had grown larger.” —Keith Scribner
"We’re lucky to live in a world with a writer as gifted and as graceful as Alix Ohlin. This book is instantly engrossing, engaging, and moving. I began to think I lived inside of this beautiful and absorbing novel, so real were her characters, so complicated and human their plights." —Robin Romm
About the Author
Alix Ohlin is the author of The Missing Person, a novel; Babylon and Other
Stories; and Signs and Wonders, a new collection. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. She lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, where she teaches at Lafayette College.
Top Customer Reviews
I guess lately I've become tired of reading about failed men and women, worn and regretful divorcees. So I was grateful that, although those character types exist in "Inside", Ohlin allows them to inhabit some qualities of that role as well as transcend it and achieve a sense of, forgive the pun, grace. Because that's what this book is about, one of the things, anyway, the recognition and acceptance of another's complete personhood, failures and wrong turns included, the only thing that sustains us in the long run.
I was so taken in with Ohlin's writing that I was sad when I realized that Grace, the eponymous protagonist, doesn't exist in the real world because I loved her character so. Then I got the sense that somewhere out there, a Grace does exist, and Ohlin has just put her on paper rather than the other way around.
My highest recommendation.
Inside is aptly titled given that Ohlin has a preternatural ability to penetrate her characters' minds and hearts. This, even more than Ohlin's gorgeous prose and carefully crafted plot, is the reason to read Inside. As Ohlin maps out the lives of her disparate characters--from an up-and-coming actress in New York and L.A. to a former relief worker in Rwanda--she makes visible the inner workings of absolute strangers. (I say strangers because as I read Inside, I began to feel that Ohlin's characters were actually real people I didn't use to know and now do.) In making visible what is dim at best in others, Ohlin offers the possibility that this kind of seeing may not be an impossible feat--and that we therefore may also see others, and be seen, with an eye not just to the specific form our troubles have taken but also to our kinship.
When reading Inside, I was reminded of D.H. Lawrence's "Odour of Chrysanthemums," in which a woman, when presented with her husband's corpse, confronts the reality that she never really knew him--the implication being that we can never really know another. 'Was this what it all meant - utter, intact separateness, obscured by heat of living? In dread, she turned her face away." Inside is so beautiful because Ohlin doesn't turn away.
Alix Ohlin's novel is an extraordinary work written about one of the great human instincts, to help another human being. And it is written about the failures caregivers must experience, the strange, dark corner within us all that causes us to injure those who care for us best. It is a novel about emotional betrayal, insensitivity, and the courage of those who continue to care for others despite the damage done to them. And, in the midst of this, it is a novel about hope.
The story is told in a broken-time sequence that is expertly woven between four characters. Annie is a self-lacerating, ferociously self-involved adolescent who finds herself grown up to be an actress in New York caring for a young, pregnant runaway who is detestably self-involved as Annie ever had been. Grace, Annie's former therapist, finds her faith in herself destroyed by Annie, Annie's parents, and the third character, Tug. Tug is a perfectly rendered victim of the massive failure of caregiving experienced by those who must try to help the victims of genocide. Finally, Mitch, the husband Annie rejected, is rejected again and again by those who `employ' him to provide care for their children and themselves.
These intertwined lives are suffused with failure in their attempts to care for and love others. Yet the wisdom and depth of Ohlin's novel is achieved through a fundamental truth that seems completely evident to the reader, yet just beyond the reach of the characters themselves. That truth? Personal commitment and sacrifice can be their own reward.
But do we really believe this? Ohlin tests our belief in human goodness at every corner.Read more ›
The tangle of characters that are connected to Grace weaves a nice web for the reader. It becomes one of those books that one can't seem to put down . . . even in the middle, which I found dragged a bit, one is pulled toward the end, wondering what will become of these characters. And for this reason I was thankful that the novel wasn't too long. While the characters are variegated, I found their unhappiness a bit suffocating at times.
Overall, the reader will enjoy the journey of these characters, especially Anne the actress, who was my favorite, and who, for me, really kept me reading. But I believe different personalities will relate to other characters more, and this makes for a successful book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
i always borrow fom library for my kindle so never have buyer remorse. if i like the book and am engaged i buy a print copy for my personal shelves. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Elaine The Schramm
I listened to this as an audiobook (which was very well-narrated). Despite all the critical acclaim and positive customer reviews, I just didn't think the story was that great. Read morePublished on June 21, 2013 by rockchick
The novel starts on a tragic note.
Grace, a female therapist, finds a man half buried in the snow. Read more
I didn't like `Inside' at all. The writing is clunky, full of banalities, flowery metaphors, platitudes and clichés (am I repeating myself here? Read morePublished on May 28, 2013 by Cassandra
Three and a half boring characters, and one potentially interesting character. The characters, whether full or half, center around a female therapist, Grace, who has no personal... Read morePublished on May 22, 2013 by onanisland
Although I found it a little hard to keep the storylines straight, they did blend in the end. It was a good read, although a little depressing. Read morePublished on May 10, 2013 by F. L. Leghorn
Well written, interesting characters... this is my third Ohlin book and it may be my favorite (not quite finished yet)!Published on April 24, 2013 by Betty
A good read...complex characters with interesting motivations, relationships ...not always the happiest story, but I read it in a single afternoon!Published on April 12, 2013 by kgkbooks