Eden had always worshiped her father, even though his bouts of mania and depression scared and confused her as a child. But when she was ten years old, he attempted suicide which prompted her mother to finally file for divorce. Eden’s mother got remarried to a wonderful man, and Eden only heard from her father (David) a few more times in the twenty years since. Now Eden is in her early thirties, and decides to search for her father so she can forgive him and move on with her life. But Eden’s search for David reveals many painful truths, secrets her mother kept from her as well as the reality of the life David is living now. Eden must decide how far she’s willing to go in order to find the man who abandoned her so many years before.
I read and loved Hatvany’s Best Kept Secret [my review] so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I’d be interested in reading whatever she wrote next. Outside the Lines definitely had to live up to some high expectations that I’d set for it, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this novel almost as much as I expected to.
Although I think Best Kept Secret is the better of the two books, Outside the Lines has a lot going for it as well. Eden is a compelling and believable main character and I really felt for her. Her father’s bipolar disorder made for a very traumatic childhood for Eden, and while she grew up into an incredibly intelligent, talented, and driven young woman, the memories from her younger years were never far away in her mind. And although her father failed her on so many levels, she still loved him and wanted him in her life. I sympathized with her a great deal and wanted things to work out well for her – I kept hoping that she would reunite with her father and he would be miraculously cured and they could live happily ever after.
Of course, Outside the Lines is too realistic for such a sappy, implausible ending such as the one I described above, but I do think that Hatvany did a good job balancing the reality of the situation Eden was in with the best possible outcome for her. While I didn’t love everything about the events toward the end of the novel, I think Hatvany wrapped things up in the most realistic, yet still hopeful, way she could have.
What is interesting about this novel is that Hatvany chose to tell it from the perspectives of both Eden and her father, David. David’s point of view was especially intriguing because the reader absolutely wants to shake him for the way he behaves and the things he says around his young daughter, yet there’s a huge element of sympathy for him as well. Mental illness is not a pretty thing, and for a young child to have to experience it is horrible, but what David was going through was just as terrifying and scary for him. It was fascinating to read about how this disorder really broke David down and turned him into a shell of his former self, and to read it firsthand from David’s perspective was even more fascinating.
I really liked Outside the Lines. Hatvany did an excellent job following up the fabulous Best Kept Secret with this novel. This isn’t the easiest of reads emotionally, just because bipolar disorder is not the most pleasant of subjects to read about, but the novel is worth the emotional roller coaster it takes the reader on. Recommended.