Saturday, September 29

Book Review: Inside

Title: Inside

Author: Alix Ohlin

Pages: 258

Summary: When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress, as unencumbered as humanly possible by any personal attachments. And Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he’s desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. We follow these four compelling, complex characters from Montreal and New York to Hollywood and Rwanda, each of them with a consciousness that is utterly distinct and urgently convincing. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to—and responsible for—those dearest to us.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I started off not liking the book, but eventually I did find it hard to put down. I was pulled in, and it ending up being a fairly good book.

The story has a cast of some deeply flawed and damaged characters, it took a while to get into it, but some of their lives and how they got to where they were, was interesting to me. Captivating even, as they author brings to the surface some of the harsh realities the characters have faced, and how they choose to handle the decisions they made. This is a book that has a lot more to it than what you initially read, you almost have to dig deep to uncover everything that is contained in the book. I enjoyed Annie's story the most particularly how it ended, I think some readers wouldn't be happy with how hers ended, but I felt it very fitting. I think it's safe to say she was one of my favourite characters. I also enjoyed some aspects of Mitch's story line. He is a complex character, and he has a lot of issues, but I enjoyed some of his background, especially his time in Nunavut.

One of my main issues with the book were some of its characters, mainly Grace. I just couldn't stand her. I hated when the story was centralized around her. I was rather disgusted with how she was involved with Tug. It really bothered me, and I can't say for sure why. I didn't think she was a good psychiatrist, involving herself with Tug is part of the reason why. I had no sympathy for this character, and have some very strong feelings against her, and I can't pinpoint the exact reasons why. Her flaws, her inside turmoil, just didn't mesh for me. Compared to the other characters who all had demons, and troubled lives, as they tried to find themselves, she just didn't work for me.

One other issue I had with the book was how it was written. As it jumped around in time and setting, I found that it was hard to keep track of all the elements, especially the characters in the book, especially when they made appearances in other chapters (each chapter focused on a different character). For me the formatting of the book was more like a set of interconnected/inter-related stories, rather than a novel.

Overall the book turned out to be a good read, it's not one I loved, and it's not one I'd personally pick to win the 2012 Giller prize, but I do think it's going to be a contender, as it was a book that had a lot of hidden depth to its characters and overall storyline and one that would appeal to a lot of readers.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. While I didn't love the book, there is a lot to it, and there are a lot of readers out there would love the book. It has a lot of elements to it, and it is worth checking out.

What to read next: The other 2012 Giller Longlisters, Good to a Fault.

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, Fall Into Reading 2012


  1. You really do find yourself wanting to know what happens, don't you! Which is unexpected because it's such a cerebral novel in many ways. Annie's ending was fitting, although I'm guessing you're right, that it will frustrate a lot of readers, but that makes it realistic too, because we often make choices in our lives which frustrate those around us. Heh. I think the chapters are arranged like that so that they layer the theme, each focusing on what's going on "inside" for that character as it relates to what the others are experiencing, but I'd have to re-read to see if that's actually how it plays out. I got too involved in the story at times to pay attention to that as I was turning the pages.

    1. Annies ending was very fitting. I think she was a character I connected to the most, part of me wants to know more about here. I am happy with her ending though, but part of me still wants to know where she ended up. I know how you feel about getting to involved in a story like that. Y is a book that I became involved in like that.

  2. That's a shame that Grace's character didn't work for you, since she is in many ways the anchor to the narrative. But I can also understand how her character could affect you that way. She doesn't seem able to draw appropriate boundaries, which seems at odds with her profession. I really enjoyed the novel myself, although I'm sure my impression would be equally soured if I couldn't somehow identify with one of the main characters.

    1. Grace bothered me because she didn't act like a psychologist, a job that was very important to her, she broke or came close to, breaking so many ethical rules for her job. Involvement with her "patient", telling confidential stuff to Annie's parents when she was confronted by them. She was a character that did a lot of things that bothered me, and it was to hard to like her.