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O's 2012 Summer Reading List

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Inside by Alix Ohlin

Inside

272 pages; Knopf Doubleday
Can any of us really save another person? Or is each of us solely responsible for his or her own life? That's the question lurking behind Alix Ohlin's astute novel, which follows three separate characters: Grace, a therapist who's consulting with a disturbed teenage girl; Mitch, also a therapist, who moves all the way to the Arctic trying to rescue a young Inuit who's lost his whole family; and Anne, a struggling actress, who lets a pregnant runaway move into her apartment—and take over. Ohlin is a master short-story writer (see Signs and Wonders), and the early chapters of the book may feel like discrete tales. Very soon, though, you'll see how they're all intertwined, not just in terms of the characters' shared pasts in Montreal but also in the struggle with self-isolation. "There is a difference between the facts of the person and the truth of him," Grace says, trying to connect with her lover, a depressed aid worker who's just attempted suicide. Like Mitch and Anne, she can't quite reveal herself to others, presenting one version of herself at home and another during counseling sessions. At times, she even declares, "People do whatever they want, no matter what we say." A surprise car accident, however, forces her to do what she most fears—let someone else save her.
— Leigh Newman

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