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article imageReview: Alix Ohlin's 'Inside' is masterfully written Special

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By Chanah Rubenstein     Oct 26, 2012 in Arts
Alix Ohlin’s ‘Inside’, is a masterfully written novel that spans more than a decade and travels to Montreal, Nunavut, New York, Hollywood, and Africa.
'Inside' is a well woven story which goes through time and place and enforces its way into the circumstances of its characters.
Centered mostly around Grace, a psychologist living in Montreal, 'Inside' follows her and those she's affected. Her psychologist ex-husband, Mitch, travels to the Arctic for a short rotation helping in the community of Iqaluit. Annie, one of Grace’s patients, is a teenage runaway, trying to break into an acting career. At the outset, Grace stumbles upon Tug, who has recently attempted suicide and failed; she relentlessly pushes her way inside. Within himself, Tug carries a carnivorous secret that he just can't let go.
These different and unique lives converge and interweave together, creating a story centered on responsibility.
‘Inside’ delves into the issues and circumstances that come from loss. She reminds us that when we take on the responsibility of helping others, we can carry the burden of their problems with us; their outcomes also belong to us.
Alix Ohlin’s writing is meticulous, controlled and well thought out; nothing is wasted, nothing is excessive. Her writing is masterful.
While her writing is superior, the likability, or at the very least, sympathy, for most characters, is minimal. Generally, the female characters are hard. Built inside each woman's personality, as if by default, they have something to prove and it's by that they base all their decisions. On the other hand, the men are weak-willed and built with spines of glass; they cave to the wills of women. There is very little grey matter within each personality or gender.
Ohlin does a great job at storytelling, even if her characters can fall flat. There seems to be some reservation in going too deep into the characters, and because of that, at times the characters lack complexity and depth.
There are exceptions of course; the enigmatic and cryptic Tug is enthralling. His personality and behaviour is paired perfectly with the complexities of his story.
Alix Ohlin’s writing is brilliant. Readers will enjoy ‘Inside’ and will finish anticipating Ohlin’s future works; wanting to see how far she can go.
Alix Ohlin is from Montreal, but now resides in Easton, Pennsylvania and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her previous works include ‘The Missing Person’ and ‘Babylon and Other Stories’, as well as the short story collection, ‘Signs and Wonders’, which was released at the same time as ‘Inside’.
‘Inside’ is part of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist, along with Russell Wangersky’s ‘Whirl Away’, Kim Thuy’s ‘Ru’, Nancy Richler’s ‘The Imposter Bride’, and Will Ferguson’s ‘419’. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9 p.m. EST. Digital Journal will be reviewing all of the nominated books before the winner is announced.
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