Book Review: Inside by Alix Ohlin
by Alix Ohlin
House of Anansi, 2012
The first three chapters of Inside read like self-contained short stories. Each chapter features characters and settings with no apparent connection to those in the others. By chapter three, I asked myself, “Did I pick up a short story collection here?” and I checked the cover to confirm that Inside is a novel. Indeed, it is, but we don’ start to see the connections until chapter four. Ohlin takes a risk with this approach; readers disconnect if not fed well enough, soon enough.
I hung in there to see how everything would connect, but would everyone?
The book describes the intersecting lives of a Montreal therapist, her ex-husband, and one of her patients. Each story line involves people inserting themselves into the lives of another (invading?) in a way that feels uncomfortable, even unnatural, even unbelievable to an introvert like me.
None of these people lead happy, fulfilled lives. They seek compensation for their flaws through needy and manipulative interactions with others. By the end of the novel, they don’t evolve much despite living through circumstances that could have provided valuable life lessons.
I was left feeling unsatisfied, like I had never really stepped inside the characters to learn to understand them, never mind like them.
This book received good reviews in The Globe and Mail and Quill and Quire, but The New York Times eviscerated it. All are right in their own way. This book has weaknesses, and I didn’t love it, but this book has strengths, and I didn’t hate it. Read it yourself to see which way you fall.
Posted on September 4, 2013, in Book reviews, Books I borrowed, Fiction, House of Anansi, Rogers Writers' Trust Nominees, Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominees and tagged Alix Ohlin, House of Anansi, New York Times, quill and quire, The Globe and Mail. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.