Outside the Lines
Washington Square Press
ISBN-13: 978-1451640540 (also available for Kindle)
Eden West lives in Seattle and works as head chef for a prominent catering company. After a health scare with her mother Lydia, Eden decides to search for her mentally ill father, estranged from Eden and Lydia for the past twenty-one years. She suspects he is homeless. Eden contacts shelters, city morgues, and scours sections of Seattle where the homeless hide.
Eden is close to her mother. But Lydia does not understand Eden’s desperate need to find her father. She would prefer to forget David ever existed. Lydia wants Eden to find a man, settle down and get married. She doesn’t realize that Eden, who has a trail of failed romances, will never be able to find happiness in a relationship until she locates her father and resolves the emotional issues his mental illness has caused her. Eden needs to find answers to her questions. Why did David, a talented artist, abandon her and her mother when Eden was ten years old? The scars on her heart are as apparent as those on David’s wrist from the day he tried to commit suicide. Eden had discovered him bleeding on the bathroom floor. That was the last time she saw her father.
One day, Eden visits Hope House, one of the newer shelters in town. There she meets director Jack Baker. He suggests that she volunteer at the shelter and get to know some of the “clients.” He thinks it may help her find David. Eden agrees to cook dinner for them each Tuesday. The fact that she is smitten by Jack makes it an easy decision.
Will Eden find her father? That is the overarching question throughout the book and the conflict that keeps the pages turning. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say Eden falls in love and finds greater purpose in her life. She indeed finds a way to move past the issues and questions left by her father and she finally opens that upscale gourmet restaurant she’s always dreamed about. The story is beautifully written, with excellent setting and characterization. The chapters flip-flop between Eden’s life in the year 2010, Eden as a ten-year-old in 1989 telling us her back story, and David’s perspective in 1989. This format works well and is not at all confusing. David’s chapters hauntingly and vividly illustrate what living with a mental illness might be like.
Beneath the surface of a wonderful story, Outside the Lines challenges the reader to reevaluate his or her understanding of mental illness and homelessness. Do the homeless really want “help”? Or is their lifestyle more a matter of choice? David refuses to stay on medication, much to the frustration of Eden and Lydia, because he can’t live with the numbness. He can’t paint when on the meds because he can’t feel. He much prefers to deal with the raging voices inside, even if it means living without his family. On the streets, he finds freedom.
The book concludes with thought-provoking discussion questions, making it an excellent choice for book clubs. Highly recommended. Release date February 7, 2012.