It isn't often that the end of a book makes me want to cry. I wanted to give the characters in Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany a hug. I was hooked from the very beginning.
Eden West is a successful chef. She has a lot more than most people. Close friends, her own home, a loving brother and a mother and step-father who adore her. But there is a hole in Eden's heart. A hole that can only be filled by her long-lost father David, whose deep descent into mental illness separated him from his daughter. Eden has long believed that her father, who is now homeless, stopped caring about her when she was a child. Their once strong bond was broken by David's suicide attempt, which Eden unfortunately witnessed.
David's mind was in constant turmoil. He wanted to be a good husband to Eden's mother Lydia, but lived in constant fear that he couldn't measure up to his wife's standards. Getting a job and providing for his family by society's standards were impossible. He was an artist, trying to be normal only stifled his creativity. Doctors, medication, and hospitalization worked in short spurts, but eventually he would let the voices in his head take over. Lethargy and constant depression while medicated was no way to live for David. In addition to his art, Eden was the one bright spot in David's life. He could feel a little more like himself around Eden. She wouldn't judge him the way Lydia would. Eden kept his secrets. They could bond together cooking a meal, leading to Eden's love affair with food. But Eden begins taking on more guilt and responsibility than any child should. In her mind, she has to make sure her father feels good, is taking his medication, and continues to paint. She's more like a parent than a child. If she doesn't keep track of him maybe he won't love her anymore. Maybe he will leave the family. If she tries too hard, he might even come to resent Eden.
Now that Eden is in her thirties, she wants to let go of the pain he caused. She wants him back in her life. The search leads Eden to a homeless shelter, run by Jack, a man whom she is instantly smitten with. Volunteering at the shelter is a way for Eden to not only search for her father, but to bring a little joy to her life. Cooking and interacting with people who appreciate it makes Eden feel good about her life, a feel she doesn't get working for her corporate clients.A romantic relationship with Jack doesn't hurt either!
The book is very thought provoking. Eden's heart is in the right place, but is she really thinking about what would happen if they reunite? She's caught up in how his presence will improve her life. She's not really thinking about her father's life. He attempted suicide because he was in so much pain. Living according to society's standards just wasn't for him. Eden believes once they reunite her father will want to be medicated. Is sacrificing his happiness worth it just so Eden can be happy? Can you really force a person to live the life you want? Once Eden accepts her father's imperfections, maybe she can truly be happy. As the book
title suggests, what is wrong with living outside the lines?
Rating: O.M.G. !!!
Note: I received a copy of the book from publisher (Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review.