three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
By: 
David Long
user_rating: 
0

A-The Inhabited WorldBefore Evan Molloy committed suicide in 1992, he had had no inkling he’d be marooned in the very Seattle-area home where he put a bullet to his head. When a single, 30-something woman, Maureen Keniston—emotionally fragile after trying to end an affair with a married man—moves into the home in 2002, Evan, now as a ghost, recognizes her loneliness and starts to reflect on his own childhood, parents’ divorce, and failed marriage. As he tries to make sense of the events leading up to his suicide, Evan and Maureen, living in parallel worlds, try to find the strength to escape their own purgatories and achieve redemption.
Houghton Mifflin. 288 pages. $23. ISBN: 061854335X

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"That Long has chosen to name his hapless protagonist Molloy, after Beckett’s famously dying character, suggests the thematic arc of The Inhabited World. … What Long masterfully achieves is the precise interior focus of a man whose life is circling the drain, and he does this without either high drama or sentimentality." Gail Caldwell

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"[His] new novel … provides plenty of evidence that Long is one of the legion of largely neglected mid-list authors who are richly deserving of wider recognition and acclaim. In Evan Molloy … Long has created a compelling and spooky conduit for an exploration of the life and death of a man who succumbs to a momentary ‘failure to remain alive.’" Brad Zellar

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This is, surprisingly, not a depressing book at all, in part because its descriptions of Evan’s slide into despair are so simple and lucid and particular. … The book is constructed as its hero’s seriously belated attempt to see the shape of his life and to understand the reasons for his self-slaughter, but it also becomes, in the end, a kind of love story, one-way and unrequited, between the dead and the still living." Terrence Rafferty

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"The novel suggests that the ethereal elements of the otherworld inexplicably condition our lives and leave a powerful impact, even as we might fail to recognize them. … It shouldn’t spoil anything to say that Evan’s ultimate realizations are less profound than his elegiac description of the process of coming to them." Geoffrey Bateman

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"In the end, what may be therapeutic for the fictional narrator does not necessarily lead to enlightenment for the reader. For most of us, suicide will continue to be a baffling option." Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Long’s novel attempts to emulate such spooky films as Ghost and The Sixth Sense, but with one crucial difference: Evan cannot interact with the material world. We sense a missed opportunity for drama here." Michael Leone

Critical Summary

David Long’s fictional landscape often takes place inside the mind. In this case, he develops a ghost-as-narrator who, through flashbacks, pieces together his life. The Inhabited World is really two stories, however: Evan’s transition from a happily married man to his crippling depression, and Maureen’s attempt to leave an abusive affair. These plots may sound depressing, but critics agree that Long creates a sense of calm, centering, and moodiness that recalls his first novel, The Falling Boy. Despite all odds, parts of the writing even approach joy as Evan recalls his daily life. A few problems held reviewers back. The interior narrative doesn’t engage immediately and, in fact, became tiresome to a few. Others did not fully understand Evan’s suicide. But in the end, The Inhabited World is worth reading for its musings on life, death, and faith in redemption.