Leah's Reviews > Outside the Lines

Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany
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Feb 29, 12

bookshelves: ebooks, for-review, books-read-2012
Read from February 16 to 29, 2012

Last year I read and loved Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany. It was a magnificent novel that spoke to me so well. The tone was right, the characters were right and Hatvany didn’t pussyfoot around when it came to alcohol addiction. So when I heard about Amy’s new novel Outside The Lines, I was quite excited to see what she could come up with this time around. To see if she could top what she’d done with Best Kept Secret. As it turns out, the novels aren’t anywhere near similar, yet they’re both very effective at being emotional novels that you find hard to put down. You can tell Hatvany wrote both Best Kept Secret and Outside The Lines, but their impact is different to each other.

Outside The Lines is a novel of a dysfunctional family at its heart. When I started reading it I wasn’t sure what it was about as I didn’t actually read the blurb. So I was a bit surprised when it turned out to be a novel of a woman, Eden, who is searching for her homeless father whom she hasn’t seen for so many years. A father who is, to all intents and purposes, not what a father should be since he had an undiagnosed mental illness and regularly swung from being ridiculously happy to being ridiculously sad and withdrawn. A father who wouldn’t take his meds, who didn’t really fit the norm of a “normal” father. The novel swings back and forth from present day to back when Eden was a child and it was a sad mix to read just how her father affected her life. Eden’s devotion to her father was impressive. I know it’s her Dad, obviously, but still. What David does during the novel is just awful. Not purposefully awful, but awful nevertheless. It does make you question just why Eden is so intent on finding him, but then on the flipside of course Eden should find him, of course she should because he’s her Dad.

If I’m honest I did find the backstory to not be as interesting as the present story. Just as I was enjoying Eden’s search for her Dad, and her work at a homeless shelter, and her job as a chef, we’d swing back to a time when Eden’s life was, frankly, miserable and it was hard to read. It was difficult to read the dynamics of Eden and David’s relationship because it wasn’t a normal father/daughter relationship and it wasn’t a happy relationship, period. And honestly? It did make me uncomfortable for reasons I can’t really explain. I wasn’t expecting a happy read, of course not, but what David goes through and what Eden goes through is just inherently depressing. Yup, I’m sure it does happen in real life, of that I have little doubt, but it did bring the book down a lot, it did make it quite difficult to read as we got to see into David’s mind. It was sort of suffocating, hearing David’s crazy thoughts and then seeing the way Eden saw it as a child, too.

I did enjoy Outside The Lines. It was brilliantly written, I loved Eden, I loved Eden and Jack, who runs Hope House, the homeless shelter Eden volunteers at. I even liked the search for David, how Eden found out bits and pieces, how what she thought she knew was proven to be wrong and how she learned more about who her Dad (and her Mum!) really was. I enjoyed the way Hatvany presented mental illness, because it’s not a topic I know a lot about but I still can’t seem to shake the uncomfortable feeling between Eden and David. I can’t get past the fact that a father no matter how ill he was would let himself get found in a pool of blood after trying to kill himself and that that wouldn’t then effect Eden for quite some time. It was an alarmingly dark thing to put in the novel, and I just found it hard to get past that. Nevertheless Hatvany is an extremely talented writer and I would definitely recommend Outside The Lines. (Unless you’re squeamish.) Eden is a wonderful character despite her difficult past, and it is a very well written, engaging novel.
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Reading Progress

02/29/2012
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