By Amy Hatvany
Washington Square Press, $15.00, 358 pages

Amy Hatvany’s fourth novel is an engaging and provocative look at mental illness. Eden is a 10-year-old girl whose artist father leaves her and her mother behind in Seattle after he’s attempted suicide and refused to take the medications needed to “silence the rumblings in his head.” The adult Eden achieves her dream of becoming a successful chef in the city, but realizes that she needs to find her father before it’s too late.

“He thought he could white-knuckle his way through to normalcy.  He thought he could do it without the meds.  He couldn’t decide which was worse – life on the meds or life off of them.”

I’m not usually a fan of stories that are told in non-chronological order – they tend to be too clever by half – but here the author makes it work, and work well. In fact, some of her time-shifts seem to have been crafted for a screenplay of the story. Hatvany has a gift for dialogue, although in Outside the Lines she’s created a character in Jack (Eden’s philanthropist boyfriend) who’s just too good to be true.

While the novel is set in Seatlle, there are side trips to San Francisco and Portland which provide changes of scenery. This is a morality play in which Eden (as in the Garden of…) must save her long-lost dad before she can save herself and the world she lives in.

Reviewed by Joseph Arellano