Review: Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany

Family, mental illness and letting go of the past are the major themes of Amy Hatvany's Outside the Lines, which is being published for the first time in Australia this month. Local readers may already be aware of Hatvany through her thought provoking novel Safe With Me. Travelling between two eras and two different characters, Outside the Lines tells the story of a man with a severe mental illness and the impact it has on his young daughter, Eden, who at ten years old witnesses a tragic suicide attempt. As an adult, Eden finds herself searching for her long-lost father, who is now a poor artist living on the streets, but finds herself learning more than she expected, including one heartbreaking life lesson.

Although I found this novel to be quite tough going in places (it felt very emotional,) I also found that it was one very much worth staying with. Through David, we learn about the complexities of living with a mental illness and why taking pills is not the easy option that it may seem to an outsider, and through Eden we learn the pain of watching a loved one suffer and see her confusion as to whether or not her father loves her, and her struggle to truly understand him. The backstory for Jack, the manager of Hope House and love interest for Eden is well done, as is the way the author shows the suffering of Lydia, the wife of David and mother to Eden. However, I was not a fan of best friend Georgia or half brother Bryce and found their characters and stories a little crass in comparison to the rest of the novel and perhaps even unnecessary. On the whole, though, this is an enjoyable, though provoking novel. Recommended.

Thank you to the Reading Room and Allen & Unwin for my review copy. 


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