When Grace stumbles across a man, Tug, in the snowy woods who has tried to commit suicide, she immediately jumps into action. As a therapist, she yearns to find out what has made him get to this point and she struggles to help him, while along the way falling in love with the man.
Meanwhile, Grace's troubled teenage patient Annie has run away to New York where she reinvents herself. There, she lives a life of solitude and free from attachment but when she takes in another troubled young girl and the girls boyfriend, she finds her world changing.
And then there is Mitch, Grace's ex-husband, himself a therapist who finds himself leaving the woman he is in love with to work in a struggling native community in the North. But a tragedy has him quickly returning and finding that his old life no longer exists and he must chart a new one.
Over the span of twelve years and across the globe, these stories entwine together to form the novel Inside by Alix Ohlin. As the book jumps between characters and through different times, Ohlin crafts a tale about the need to connect to each other, to form attachments and the difficulty of it all. It asks the question, can we save another person and throughout the entire book the reader will find themselves meditating on this theme.
I found this book to be a very easy read, but not in the bad way. Ohlin tells a good story, keeps it flowing, it doesn't get bogged down in too many words, and weaves together four different stories. I didn't quite like the jumps between people and time, they left me wondering where the connection was and I prefer to know right away (obviously, that's just a personal issue for me.)
Inside has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize as well as the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Because of this I was expecting some grand literary triumph. Instead what I got was a deeply moving, heartfelt, simple yet profound story about people, about what is going on inside of them, and an interesting commentary on how complicated life can be. At first, I wasn't sure this was the quality of book I was looking for in a Giller shortlisted novel, but since I finished reading the book last week, I often find myself thinking "what book was it that such and such happened?" about a variety of things and every time the answer is "Inside." So obviously, this book and the characters stick with you long after you've finished reading.