by Alix OhlinReading Group Guide
About This Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested further reading that follow are designed toenhance your group’s discussion of Alix Ohlin’s emotionally powerful new novel
About the Book
gives readers a novel of extraordinary depth and complexity. Following theintertwined lives of several sets of characters,
explores the often hidden inner life and themany ways it radiates into the external world.The novel begins as Grace, a psychotherapist, is out skiing when she stumbles upon aman lying in the snow. The man, named Tug, has fallen after a failed suicide attempt. Gracehelps him to the hospital and then is increasingly, irresistibly drawn into a relationship with him,driven by the desire to help him and to unravel the mystery of who he really is. Tug keeps hisown inner life safely out of reach, barely sharing the mere facts of his past, and certainly notrevealing the reasons for his suicide attempt. He is a riddle Grace is determined to solve.
shifts between different time periods, settings, and characters, exploring theirincreasingly complex relationships and interrelationships. Throughout the novel, the theme of helping others—or of trying and often failing to help others—appears again and again. Gracetries to rescue Tug from his despair and the posttraumatic stress he suffers after witnessingatrocities in Rwanda. She also tries to help her clients, one of whom, a teenager named Anne,runs away to New York and becomes an actress. With little money or stability of her own, Annetakes in two other runaways, Hilary and Alan, virtually turning over her East Village apartmentto a pair of strangers. Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband and himself a therapist, is drawn into arelationship with Martine, partly drawn by the desire to help her autistic son. But when thatproves too draining, he heads off to work with a struggling native community in Alaska, wherehe tries to help Thomasie, a young Inuit man whose mother lies in a coma after falling asleepdrunk in the snow with her daughter. Later in the novel, Mitch will help Grace recover after shesuffers a car accident.Ohlin delves into the inner lives of each of these characters with extraordinary sensitivityand skill, revealing their motivations, their fears and vulnerabilities, and the strategies they’veadopted to cope with their pain. Again and again, she shows how these people push up againstthe limits of their ability to help or be helped. She explores, as well, the many ways peoplechoose to hide, disappear, or walk away from each other.