By Alix Ohlin
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.00, 272 pages
Inside is a loose-knit tale of three disparate people whose lives are touched by a woman named Grace. To Mitch, she is his ex-wife and one more sign of his inability to commit. She is Annie’s therapist but, despite her desire to help, cannot seem to reach this perfectionist 16-year-old with a penchant for cutting herself and telling lies. For Tug, she is the woman who discovers him lying in a snow bank after his attempt to kill himself by hanging had failed. This cast moves across and through Grace’s life, never touching each other, but each coloring and changing her life as much as she affects theirs.
Alix Ohlin does a beautiful job creating these characters, each with their own emotional intensity and tone. Even if we don’t understand the motivation behind their actions, their stories still resonate and draw us in. The only point of confusion for this reader was the shifting between past and present in each chapter and for each individual character. This broke the flow of what are very complex, compelling stories and loosened the book’s hold on my attention. I always came back but would have preferred a more linear construction.