Title: Outside the Lines
Author: Amy Hatvany
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating:4.5 out of 5
Eden West is a successful chef at a catering company, yet she finds little fulfillment in her life. All of her relationships have ended in failure because Eden cannot come to terms with her past. Her relationship with her father haunts her to this day; she doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead, but she assumes he is living on the streets. By day she works, and by nights, she visits local shelters, desperately searching for her father, who suffers from some form of bipolar disorder. When her quest leads her to a shelter run by a man named Jack Baker, Eden realizes there might be room in her life for more than just her search for her father.
Outside the Lines is a heartwrenching look at dealing with mental illness. As a child, Eden adores her father. Even during his darkest times, she stands by him, unable to understand why her mother will not help him. She truly believes that, through the force of her love for him, she can will him to take his medicine. Eden thinks that her father’s mental illness is in her control; if she is good enough, if she loves him enough, he will get better. After all, what father wouldn’t do that for his daughter?
Though Eden has matured into a logical and capable young woman, she still sees her father as her ten-year-old self did. She hasn’t lost that conviction that if she just loves him enough, it will get better. That’s part of the reason she is so driven to find her father; if he knows she still loves him and hasn’t rejected him, it will be enough for him to take his medication and live a “normal” life. As the reader begins to understand what Eden has been through and how traumatic her childhood was, their heart will bleed for her. All she wants is David to be the father she needs, and they know that, deep down, she will never find that.
One of the main messages of Outside the Lines is about how to love people. Loving a person does not mean trying to change them into what you believe they should be. It’s not about forcing your ideas or opinions onto them. It’s about loving who they are, regardless of their flaws (or perhaps, because of them) and respecting their choices. Eden must learn this lesson over and over again in Outside the Lines; it’s incredibly bittersweet, but so realistic.
Hatvany wrote her characters very well in Outside the Lines. Whether a major or minor personage, it’s clear that Hatvany wanted these people to leap off the page at the reader. As a result, this doesn’t feel like a book; it feels as though you are taking a peek into someone else’s life. I have no doubt that Eden exists somewhere, in some way. She’s too realistic to be mere fiction.
While Eden is the primary narrator of the novel, the reader also gets to hear parts of the story from David’s point of view. While this is eye-opening, it’s also terrifying. Hatvany gets into the mind of a mentally ill person so well – David’s guilt at not being able to be a dependable father for Eden, his vulnerability to his sickness, his highs and lows. Without these glimpses, it would be easy to write David off because bipolar disorder is such a difficult thing to really get. Instead, though, the reader begins to understand David, and even more, to see that there is absolutely nothing Eden can do to help him in the way she wants to.
Outside the Lines is such an incredible read, and there is so much I haven’t covered in this review – Hatvany’s considerate treatment of the homeless, an honest, yet flawed man in Jack, and more. There are so many aspects to it, and all are incredibly well-written and realistic. This novel could so easily have been just another cliché, yet it’s honest and true. Whether for a book club pick or for a lazy afternoon, I can’t recommend this amazing novel highly enough.