Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Inhabited World by David Long

The Inhabited World by David Long
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006
Fiction; 277 pgs

Started: 06/01/2007
Completed: 06/03/2007
Rating: * (Good +)

First Sentence: When he looks at his hand, he sees the hand he remembers—ropy branching veins, a ridge of waxy skin on the inside of the wrist where he fumbled a glowing iron rod at his father’s forge one afternoon in 1966.

Reason for Reading: This is my second selection for the New York Times Notable Book Challenge and my seventh for the Spring Reading Thing. I first came across this title through Kookiejar at A Fraternity of Dreamers. The author had visited her blog to recommend she consider reading his book. Out of curiosity, I did a little research and discovered that the subject matter intrigued me, and so onto my list it went.

Comments: The Inhabited World is not an easy book to describe. It is not quite a ghost story. It is more of a story about life, redemption, and moving on. The main character just happens to be dead. It is about a man, Evan Molloy, who died by his own hand. He is stuck in a state of limbo, unable to leave the property his Washington house is set on, and so his days and nights are spent observing the new residents as they come and go. Evan does not understand where exactly he is or why.

Maureen Keniston is the most recent tenant, a woman who is running away from her old life, trying to reestablish herself and find her footing after a long affair with a married man. Although her story is an important part of the narrative, Evan's story is the main focal point throughout most of the novel. As Evan watches Maureen and begins to understand her situation, all the while wishing he could offer her some solace, he is lost in his own memories, the recounting of his life and how he ended up where is today, including what led him to pull the trigger.

David Long's novel had an "it could happen to me" feel to it right from the very start. Evan was an average man whose life did not stand out much beyond the norm. His families, both in childhood and adulthood, were no more dysfunctional than most in today's society. Evan was really never made out to be a victim of his circumstances, which is a definite strength in this novel, fitting in with the overall atmosphere set by the author. I never felt sorry for Evan, although I could empathize with his plight.

I was most drawn to Evan's experience with depression, including the onset and his cycles in and out of it. Although it's named, the illness is never fully accepted by Evan for what it is, which itself is not too uncommon. There is a stigma about depression in its many forms and other mental illnesses as we see with not only Evan, but his stepdaughter, Janey as well. Physical health problems have always been more acceptable; those of the mind, even if the root may be physical, are still hard to accept.

There was a constant layer of melancholy that settled over the novel, both in the author's prose and woven into the lives of his characters. The Inhabited World is not one that stands out in the sense of climax and melodrama, and yet there is a quality about it that lingers because of the subtleness and the realness of it.

One side effect of having read this book is that now I find myself wondering if I am truly ever alone. Is there a spiritual being sitting in the pink (Anjin says it's brown) armchair, watching as I write this?

Note: You can learn more about the author and his other works by visiting David Long's website. Lovers of book lists might especially enjoy reading through the author's own lists.

Miscellaneous: It didn’t take long to fall asleep once my head settled onto my pillow for my afternoon nap today. I had a blog related dream in which I was writing a very long and involved post in which I had hoped to challenge an unnamed blogger to read a particular book (title and author of said book unknown) and write a review. I could not get a hold of the blogger and so I decided to instead offer the friend of the blogger a chance at the challenge. I only hoped that The Literate Kitten would agree. As with most of my dreams, I awoke before I could see the outcome and no attempts to recapture the dream worked.

21 comments:

  1. Your review was interesting, Kitty. I was struck by how Evan still killed himself even after seeing how suicide (and attempted suicide) can affect the people left behind. But, perhaps it was for the best, if it was his presence that helped Maureen through her ordeal.

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  2. Kelly - It was an interesting read. Worth the time, I think. :-)

    Kookie - With depression, a person isn't always thinking rationally and so his actions wouldn't necessarily be impacted by reason and logical and empathetic thought. I also can't help but wonder how much of it is hindsight. Because he committed suicide, was he more focused on the suicides of those around him (shaped, colored and interpreted by life experiences and feelings in hindsight as memories often are) or were his recollections true in their form? I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but it does in my head. LOL I doubt the author ever intended a reader to try and delve that deeply into his character. Haha For me, it just raised some interesting thoughts.

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  3. I like that you add "Reasons for reading" to your review. I often feel the need/desire to explain this as well. Glad I'm not alone!

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  4. Wendy, I enjoyed your review and I absolutely do like the sound of this book..I am not sure I have ever read a book narrated by a ghost, especially one who took his own life. I am sure that as the story unravels the reasons why he did what he did makes for very interesting reading. I like also that you took so much away from the book..I love it when a book does that to me. Thank you for the recommendation, I will have to look for it.

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  5. This does sound interesting, especially the exploration of depression. I enjoyed your review--thanks!

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  6. Great review!! I do have this book on my list for the NY Times challenge. I'm hoping to get to it sometime this summer!

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  7. I hadn't even thought of the hindsight aspect, Kitty. I think you are right.

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  8. I hadn't heard of this book before but am now putting it on my TBR list. Great review!

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  9. I've been eyeing this one. Thanks for the great review!

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  10. Great review Wendy, this book does sound very interesting.

    About your dream...isn't it funny how things such as blogging can infiltrate our sleeping minds?? Love it!

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  11. I've read this review twice now...very intriguing. Ohhhhh, can I stand one more TBR???? I am feeling so overwhelmed!

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  12. I have one of Longs other works on my to be read list, but I don't remember which one...hmmm. This one sounds very interesting! I will have to put it on my TBR list!

    ~Shannon~

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  13. I think I'll add this to my infinitely long list of books I'd like to read after I get through the towering pile on the floor beside my bed.

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  14. John - Thank you for visiting. It can be interesting to see why a person selected a particular book to read, although I'm not sure my reasons are always of interest to anyone other than me and perhaps the person who may have recommended it. :-)

    Lotus - Thank you. I thought the author did a good job with the narration--keeping it more literary than fantastical (not that there would be anything wrong with that, but it might have defeated the purpose of this particular book).

    Gentle Reader - I think it is worth reading. I realized now after rereading my review that someone might think this book is about depression--and it's not, not really. That was just a part of the story that most stood out for me. The whole depression story line is actually subtle. I think it's my own experiences that bring it to the forefront for me.

    Stephanie - I am glad I followed Kookiejar's lead and read this one. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Kookie - It's probably just me overanalyzing. :-) Funny how I don't do that with everything I read, but with others I do.

    Iliana - Thank you! I hope you like if you do get it.

    Andi - It's worth picking up and giving a closer look at if you get the chance. :-)

    Karina - Thanks!

    I would rather dream about blogging then work, that's for sure. :-)

    LK - One more probably won't topple the stack just yet. :-)

    Shannon - I'd be curious to know what you think of the book you do have on your to read list.

    JMC - Boy, do I know that feeling! LOL

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  15. I enjoyed reading your review. I rated this book a 4/5.

    I like your new look! I love my 3 column page. It's been fun learning new things.

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  16. This book sounds really interesting; I may have to pick it up. The family is having a "use all our B&N gift certificates" afternoon this weekend, fun!

    Thanks for the vote, by the way. You have made me reconsider, so with a little adjustment to my initial plans for daily posting, I am back in the presidential race. :)

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  17. Joy - I must go over and see your new look. :-)

    Hey there, JMC! I am envious of your B&N shopping spree this weekend. That sounds like so much fun. Can I come along??

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  18. I've had this one on my wishlist for awhile since hearing about it in a prior issue of Bookmarks. Glad to hear it is worth the read!

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  19. This book really sounds intriguing. I think it's already on my wishlist, but I better double check!

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  20. Lesley - I hope you will enjoy it when you get to it. It's not a book that has a big punch but it is a worthwhile read just the same.

    Dewey - Thanks for stopping by! If it's not on your wishlist, add it quick!

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