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Inside

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Inside Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. In what ways does the novel unfold the significance of its title? In what ways is it about the inner life?

2. What threads run throughout the novel? In what multiple ways are all the major characters interconnected? What important experiences do they share? 

3. Tug tells Grace: “There’s something weird about a person like you who’s so intent on helping a fuck-up,” to which Grace replies, “Maybe there’s something weird about a person like you, who thinks he doesn’t deserve anybody’s help” [p. 100]. Why is Grace so intent on helping Tug? Why is he so resistant to her help?

4. In what ways is this a novel about the desire to help others (or to rescue them) and the limits of this desire? Which other characters take on the role of helper? What are the consequences of their efforts?

5. Why does Anne run away from home? How is Hilary able to tell that she’s a runaway like herself?

6. After she is attacked in Edinburgh, Anne decides to keep the experience from her fellow actors and feels “the secret high that came from thinking none of them knew her at all” [p. 131]. Tug keeps his inner life “hidden behind a curtain, on a secret stage” [p. 165]. In what ways do the characters in Inside both reveal and conceal their inner lives? What does the novel ultimately suggest about one person’s ability to truly know another?

7. After Tug tells Grace about his traumatic experiences in Rwanda, the terrible violence and suffering he witnessed there, he says: “You can tell people your story, or any terrible story, and it doesn’t make any difference. Things just keep happening over and over again” [p. 186]. Is Tug right about this? Does telling one’s story have no healing effects?

8. What is the effect of the novel’s shifting back and forth between characters, time periods, and places?

9. Is Mitch right to blame himself for not helping Thomasie more? Why doesn’t he follow through on his offer to help? What more might he have done?

10. Like most of the characters in Inside, Anne is complicated, her motivations often mysterious. Why does she let the runaways stay in her apartment? Why does she give all her money to Hilary after her success as an actress? Why doesn’t she stop to talk to Grace when she passes her in the park?

11. After Tug reveals some of his previous life to Grace, she thinks: “There is a difference between the facts of a person and the truth of him” [p. 101]. What is the difference between the facts of Tug’s life and the truth of who he is?

12. Grace thinks about all her patients who wanted to be told what to do, and how they didn’t want to hear it when she said they had to be responsible for their own lives. “What was worse than having to take responsibility for everything you did or felt or said? For the way your actions radiated out to change not just your own life, but those of the people around you?” [p. 240]. Why is that such a daunting responsibility? In what ways do the actions, feelings, and speech of the characters radiate out to change others as well as themselves?

13. In what ways does Inside reflect, with remarkable accuracy, the emotional contours of contemporary life in what Tug calls the “comfortable nations”?

14. The last word of the novel echoes its title, as Anne invites Mitch “inside” (p. 258). What are the implications of the novel’s ending? Will Anne and Mitch get back together? If they do, how might their new relationship differ from their marriage?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307596925
Author:
Ohlin, Alix
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20120631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9.55 x 6.48 x 1.15 in 1.14 lb

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Inside Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307596925 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A trio of interlocked stories, Ohlin's bleak second novel shadows three broken people on the hunt for fulfillment who sabotage any true chance of finding it. Grace, an indiscriminately nurturing yet controlling therapist, falls hard for 'Tug,' a PTSD-afflicted stranger she discovers after a botched suicide attempt; with all the glaring red flags Ohlin plants, it's a wonder Grace doesn't see his second attempt — this one successful — coming. Mitch, Grace's brooding ex-husband, takes up with an exacting beauty far beyond his league; surprisingly to him, if not to readers, she shacks up with her gynecologist after Mitch goes away on business. And then there's the morally vapid Annie, a former cutter and one of Grace's ex-patients, who abandons her banal New York life to pursue stardom — via copious sexual conquests — in Hollywood; the glamorous lifestyle, of course, isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some juicy side plots — such as the saga involving the pregnant homeless runaway who ingratiates herself with Annie — aren't given enough room to breathe, perhaps due to Ohlin's flair for crafting emotionally complex short stories that are often left open-ended. Nonetheless, the demonstrated chasm between her characters' intentions and actions and what inevitably transpires is, perhaps like life, what makes this book so voluminous and so empty at the same time. Agent: Amy Williams, McCormick & Williams." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "In her gripping novel, Alix Ohlin covers vast geographical and emotional territory. With extraordinary power, she takes us inside the profound and fragile connections of her deeply human characters — each searching for salvation from the past while struggling to find forgiveness and redemption in the present. This story of surprising turns, grace, and compassion left me feeling that my world and my heart had grown larger."
"Review" by , "A skillful storyteller...attractively quick-witted and wry."
"Review" by , "Ohlin has a great eye, a great ear, and all the other equipment auguring a very successful future."
"Review" by , "Expect to hear her spoken of in the same reverent breath as Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams."
"Review" by , "A memorable read...consistently surprising, often devastating as the protagonists find themselves unable to share what's on the inside."
"Review" by , "Alix Ohlin is a crazy talented writer, smart and soulful. Inside is, in a word, stunning."
"Review" by , "In her gripping novel, Alix Ohlin covers vast geographical and emotional territory. With extraordinary power, she takes us inside the profound and fragile connections of her deeply human characters — each searching for salvation from the past while struggling to find forgiveness and redemption in the present. This story of surprising turns, grace, and compassion left me feeling that my world and my heart had grown larger."
"Review" by , "We're lucky to live in a world with a writer as gifted and as graceful as Alix Ohlin. This book is instantly engrossing, engaging, and moving. I began to think I lived inside of this beautiful and absorbing novel, so real were her characters, so complicated and human their plights."
"Synopsis" by , “A skillful storyteller . . . attractively quick-witted and wry.” —J. M. Coetzee

“Ohlin has a great eye, a great ear, and all the other equipment auguring a very successful future.”—Jay McInerney

“Expect to hear her spoken of in the same reverent breath as Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams.” —Heidi Julavits

 

 

From the highly acclaimed author of The Missing Person and Babylon and Other Stories, a resonant novel of entwined lives and a woman with an unsettling ability to broach the innermost dynamics of the people around her.

      When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress, as unencumbered as humanly possible by any personal attachments. And Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he’s desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. We follow these four compelling, complex characters from Montreal and New York to Hollywood and Rwanda, each of them with a consciousness that is utterly distinct and urgently convincing. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to—and responsible for—those dearest to us.

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