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