Inside by Alix Ohlin was a fast and tidy read. The novel is made up of four narratives shoved all together into a cohesive message about love and pain. It also explores what keeps humans together and interacting, despite all the pain.
The story seems to be the most about Grace, an idealistic therapist who wants to save people who have been wounded and broken. This desire is not isolated to just her clients, but spills over into her own relationships. Grace wants to throw herself at someone and really know them inside, but it often turns into a vulnerability. In the end, she learns emotional restraint keeping her insides inside, without compromising intimacy.
Ohlin weaves a novel that is rich with insight and care. The characters are real, although maybe a tiny bit bland. I still think it was lovely. The premise was simple, and in a way feels like anyone’s life. I was interested in the characters, but I still felt that the novel lacked a certain flair. The outcomes seemed too predictable.
I have not read a book like this is a while. It’s simple, but with enough meat to satisfy a literary appetite. I loved how Ohlin explored how we bear witness to each others pain. Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband who was also a therapist says:
Sometimes he hated himself simply because he was alive when others were not, and he wanted to wipe out the memories of every patient he’d ever had, every problem he’s caused or heard about or failed to alleviate. Other times he thought he would never forget any of these things and that it was important not to, perhaps the most important task of his life. Witnessing the pain of others is the very least you can do in this world. It’s how you know when your turn comes, someone will be there with you.
And I think this is the point really of the inside lives we hold and keep and carry. We share them to know we are alive, and so others will know we will listen too.