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Inside Hardcover – October 8, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian Harvey's spare, terse and intense novel is about the outside, as in outside of prison. The story focuses on the bitter, ruined life of Mr. Myrden (his first name is conspicuously omitted) and begins as Myrden is consumed by a phalanx of reporters as he leaves the prison gates on his first morning of freedom after serving 14 years for a murder he didn't commit. (DNA evidence belatedly cleared him.) Harvey (The Town That Forgot How to Breathe) examines the minutiae of how the former inmate deals with being on the outside, where so much has changed: his wife has left him, his children have grown (Myrden is now a grandfather), his friends have changed in unexpected ways, and he reconnects with a long-lost love. His attorneys arrange a substantial settlement that leaves Myrden and his wife more than $1 million (she's suddenly less estranged when money's involved), but the windfall is anything but a blessing, as Myrden soon discovers. Harvey's prose is startlingly economical and plain (One fast action. Release. Noise and flash) and gives the reader immediate access to Myrden's inner conflicted reticence. In the end, it's tough to tell which is crueler: prison or the outside. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

After 14 years in prison, Myrden is released when DNA evidence clears him of murder. A substantial settlement stands to make him a wealthy man, but spending almost a third of his life in prison, and returning to the same poor, sometimes brutal, and ignorant neighborhood he grew up in, will surely take a toll. Only his young granddaughter and a chance meeting with a woman he knew years ago offer him a chance at some kind of happiness, but the lurching march to further tragedy seems inevitable. Inside is a demanding and difficult read. The story is told almost entirely with one-, two-, and three-word sentences that hint at what Myrden is thinking as he reacts to the world—and the people—he confronts after 14 years behind bars. Some of his thoughts are insightful; others simply don't make sense. And yet, despite being a largely inchoate character, Myrden tells us much about the psychological effects of incarceration. Difficult, yes, but this is also a rewarding and grimly compelling novel. Gaughan, Thomas
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014835
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,147,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Child born of violence, Myrden is released after fourteen years of incarceration for murder after a DNA test reverses the court's judgment. Returning home, his life constricted by years of containment, this man remains behind bars, reporters with intrusive cameras at every turn, an unfaithful wife, a friend who testified against him, and best friend, Randy, with a ready laugh and another beer. The only good thing a granddaughter, Caroline. Everything outside too bright, too loud, too large. His mind resists integrating a barrage of emotions held too long in check. In bursts of prose, Harvey offers this fragile psychological construct, a broken man's attempt to connect with his precious granddaughter, to overcome his destiny, to sample a little tenderness and affection, maybe even love, to step into a world devoid of shadows. But such a place does not exist for this man, only the inevitability of careless brutality.

After training himself to exist only on the interior, to react to nothing, it is all but impossible for Myrden to relate to an exterior terrain. To face the family, the friends, the strangers who gather at his wife's house, all waiting to see what he will do next, when rage temper will escape reason and erupt. To face his children's resentment, all raised in penury, victimhood and violence. This is his legacy, the only ray of light Caroline's sweet face, her child's voice calling, "Poppy! Poppy!" Only this little girl softens his heart, offering hope he dare not entertain. These faces are familiar, genetically embedded with failure: "They were heart-mangled. It was their family legacy." Emptiness of home and spirit, broken homes and shattered dreams, "poverty with five hundred channels".

Is it possible to be a hero in such a place?
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Format: Hardcover
What is it like for a man who expected to die in prison to suddenly find himself back on the outside after fourteen years served for a murder that DNA testing now proves was not his doing? Will he be able to control his rage, the same rage that he learned to depend on in prison for his very survival, so that he does not commit a crime of violence that returns him to lockup? Can he tolerate the leeches, including his wife, who are so eager to help him spend the false-imprisonment settlement he will soon collect from the Canadian government?

In his novel, "Inside," Kenneth J. Harvey places himself in the mind of just such a character, Myrden (a man whose first name is never revealed), and does it so effectively that many of those questions are answered. Harvey, in fact, tells Myrden's story largely through the man's own thought processes, a technique that leaves the reader standing squarely in Myrden's shoes, seeing life through his eyes, and feeling all of his emotions and frustrations. The book, in fact, is almost completely written in sentence fragments of less than five words and reading it is like listening to Myrden think out loud.

Myrden is the first to admit that he was not exactly an innocent man when he was sent to prison for murder. At times he is not completely sure, despite the new DNA evidence, that he did not commit the crime and wonders if the real mistake is that he is being released. But he is grateful for the large settlement he receives from the government and is eager to use it to better the lives of his daughter and his granddaughter, Caroline, the true love of his life.
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Format: Hardcover
You're in the boxing ring. Taking hits to the jaw. No word wasted. Nothing extraneous. Spare. Brutal. Tough. Why use a long sentence with flow and structure when five will do?

Half of "Inside" is style. I'm emulating here. The other half is a portrait. A portrait of man, Myrden, making a transition. He's trapped between the "inside" of prison and his experiences on the outside. He's trapped by his own "inside."

This is stripped-down stuff. At times, I was worn out reading. So many stops and starts.

A sample:

"Fourteen years you get past those plans. You lose your plans. People make plans for you. You become almost nothing. Nothing to no one. People forget about you. You forget. You disappear. Up at eight. Lights out eleven-thirty."

Another:

"The police. The police officers. The welfare office. The woman behind the desk. Why are you here? What can we do for you? Is employment not an option? She wanted the information. She asked the questions. But she couldn't have cared less."

"Inside" reads like daubs of paint in furious brush strokes. The style breaks many alleged "rules" about writing. There is no formula at work here. Harvey writes what he sees, hears and feels on behalf of Myrden. It's blunt.

I enjoyed seeing the rules broken or at least tortured. Harvey tests our patience, but that unsettled feeling gnaws at you the same way it's probably chewing up Myrden as he struggles to find an even keel on the outside. The ending is rough, bleak. I'm not giving anything away. With no rainbows at the outset, I certainly didn't expect anything but darkness at the end. Worth reading for style alone.
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