From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR INSIDE
"A tough, unrelenting novel, thrilling and darkly eloquent and, in the end, a celebration of what life offers in even the harshest of circumstances." --John Banville
"Brilliant . . . There is no other writer like him, Canadian or otherwise."--The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Canadian Harvey's spare, terse and intense novel is about the outside, as in "outside of prison." The story focuses on the bitter, ruined life of Mr. Myrden (his first name is conspicuously omitted) and begins as Myrden is consumed by a phalanx of reporters as he leaves the prison gates on his first morning of freedom after serving 14 years for a murder he didn't commit. (DNA evidence belatedly cleared him.) Harvey (The Town That Forgot How to Breathe) examines the minutiae of how the former inmate deals with being on the outside, where so much has changed: his wife has left him, his children have grown (Myrden is now a grandfather), his friends have changed in unexpected ways, and he reconnects with a long-lost love. His attorneys arrange a substantial settlement that leaves Myrden and his wife more than $1 million (she's suddenly less estranged when money's involved), but the windfall is anything but a blessing, as Myrden soon discovers. Harvey's prose is startlingly economical and plain ("One fast action. Release. Noise and flash") and gives the reader immediate access to Myrden's inner conflicted reticence. In the end, it's tough to tell which is crueler: prison or the outside. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
After serving 14 years in prison on a murder conviction overturned by DNA evidence, Myrden is released, returning to his family and hardscrabble Canadian neighborhood. Once home, he finds his wife less interested in him than in the monetary settlement he expects as a result of his wrongful conviction; meanwhile, son Bobby is following the rough-and-tumble path he once chose, and daughter Jackie is involved in an abusive relationship with the man who may have actually committed the murder. Myrden finds solace with Caroline, his four-year-old granddaughter, and Ruth, a university professor and former lover with whom he rekindles a relationship. As Myrden takes his first steps toward building a new life, the past continues to intrude, threatening to undermine the fragile hopes he has for himself and his family. Narrated in a clipped, staccato manner meant to suggest Myrden's guarded interior life, this novel-declared a best book of the year by numerous Canadian newspapers-presents a powerfully raw portrait of a man who discovers that prisons don't necessarily require bars on the windows. This latest from Harvey (The Town That Forgot To Breathe) is recommended for most public libraries.
Even after the prison doors have opened, family cycles of violence and revenge can keep a man in chains. In this tense and unrelenting first-person narrative, Canadian author Harvey (The Town That Forgot How to Breath, 2005, etc.) gives us Myrden (no first name) just as he is released from prison after serving 14 years for murder. DNA evidence has overturned his conviction, but the world he returns to regards him alternately as a martyr "innocent as a lamb" and as a killer who got out on a technicality. Myrden himself cannot share the truth of the crime, which he remembers only as part of a drunken spree. Signs point to one of his younger cronies, Willis, who now denies he was there the night Myrden's girlfriend, Doreen Stagg, was killed. But violence and sexual jealousy run through Myrden's crew like booze. His best pal Randy puts two men in a coma with his fists. His son Bobby has already been in and out of jail before meeting a violent end, and Myrden himself wakes up from his own welcome-home party to find "knuckles covered in dark, dried blood. Stains and fresh scabs." Only by deduction does he piece together his beating of his wife's new boyfriend during the previous night's alcoholic blackout. Slowly re-entering the free world, Myrden finds reason to continue through his love for his granddaughter Caroline and a wounded former girlfriend, Ruth. When the settlement for his wrongful imprisonment comes through, Myrden glimpses a better possible future, particularly for his daughter Jackie and for granddaughter Caroline: "Buy them better lives." He even takes a vacation with Ruth, who shows him how life could be. But when Myrden and Ruth return, the doting family man finds himselfdrawn back in by violence to the perhaps inevitable conclusion that Harvey has hinted at with chilling precision. This moody, brooding portrait will leave readers chilled and profoundly moved.
Read an Excerpt
They had made a mistake. They had realized. Everything he had moved through. The trail behind him. The institutional walls that kept him. The day in and day out. The tangle of men. It was meant to go away.
Each step he took from his cell to the admitting office was fixed in his memory. Years of what was there and what wasn’t. If the thought came to him. He’d shut it off. The things that were missing.
He tried not to feel himself moving. Tightened up against each action. Refused to see the eyes set steady on him. Being led toward 9 a.m. Release.
He had sat in the same admitting office fourteen years ago. He had taken in every detail then. Went spitefully through the process. Money and valuables removed. Receipt signed by him. File started. Name. Address. Next of kin. Religion. Offence. Photo taken. Strip search. Shower in the stall across the way. Clothes returned to him. Cell assigned. His mind troubled by the process for months after. Picking it over, again and again. Impossible to make different.
Now, he was in that room again.
The sheriff handed him the receiver.
“Hello,” he said. The feel of the phone in his hand was something he did not like.
“Hi, Poppy. I see you on TV all the time. You’re famous. You’re coming home, right? I can’t wait to see you.”
Her little voice. Tears blurred the floor where he was looking.
He said few words because words were hard for him after all this time. Then he hung up.
The sheriff gave him his belongings and, with a bowed head, said: “This way.”
He left the admitting office. Saw the shower stall across the corridor. He should be made to take one now. Before they let him out. Clean him off. Scour him. But it didn’t happen. Only what came in mattered.
He followed the uniform through the locked door and across the yard. The high walls topped with coils of barbed wire. The towers with guards in them when he first came in. No guards there now. Video cameras everywhere. Nothing moving in that yard. Just the two of them. Him and the uniform. He looked back at the windows. The faces there watching him go. Time dead in their eyes.
Up ahead, there was a female guard. On a woodenwalkway behind a tall wire fence. She unlocked the gate to let them pass alongside the visiting area. Like a school portable when he was young. Then through another locked gate. Keys rattling. Through another door. Not made of steel or wire. A room made of wood instead of cinder block. The sound of it underfoot. Different air. Different mood. Almost normal. Easy. People waiting to visit. Ordinary people who could come and go. Outside life written all over them. The metal detector. Passing through. Thinking he might set it off for no good reason. The video camera showing the other side of the main door. The crowd gathered there in the parking lot. Moving around but silent on that screen. Waiting for his release. He saw the book for signing in and out. Resting on a ledge. The different signatures. He passed by the visitors. They watched him move. Like they had never seen a man move before. He listened carefully. Edgy. Waiting to hear the buzz of the main door. He thought it might not come. The weight in his chest. His breathing. His shoulders aching. Trying not to show anything. Just another day. One exactly like all the others.
“They’re here about you,” the sheriff smiled toward the door.
The female guard was there. Just as the door buzzed. A hand on a button somewhere in the pen. That’s how it always happened. Fingers on buttons somewhere you did not see. Doors buzzing. The female guard leaned and pushed open the metal door. He would not look at her. She was smiling a little. Trying to mean business but be nice.
Everything came in. Everything went out. That one door opened to the outside. No handcuffs. Fresh air. Fresh noise and movement that hurt his ears and eyes. Everyone turned to face him. Came toward him. Almost rushed. No restraints. His body filled with warning. Muscles stiffening. His bundle of belongings tucked tighter under his arm. His big hands dangled by his sides. People in the crowd spoke his name right away. They called him Mister Myrden. All of them calling that name out. There were cameras and microphones. Just as there had been before he went in. Some of the same people. Standing there with changed faces. Everything else the same. The need in them still rabid.
The air was cold. There was wind out here. No walls for it to run up against. It stung his skin. He felt it in his hair. In his scalp. In his fingertips so they pulsed to his heartbeat. The landscape beyond the crowd stretched away. Further and further. Such endless height and distance. Dizziness in his head and stomach.
“Mister Myrden. Mister Myrden . . .”
His name again and again. And the push of them blocking his way so it was difficult for him to get through.
He was driven to his wife’s house by his son, Danny. Nineteen years old. The second youngest of five boys and one girl. The house belonged to someone else. He had no idea who. He never asked. He only knew that his wife lived there now.
He sat in the back because the front was too much for him. The big window. The movement of everything at once. It pained his eyes. He thought he might throw up. He watched out the door window in a daze. A smaller piece of glass. The view sharp and confined, framed there. And it kept going along. So many people outside. Moving around as they pleased. Nothing was stopping him. Holding him back. Preventing him. The car slowed at a set of lights. A thin woman in a coat walked by. Glanced in at him. Nothing to hold her eyes there. Just another man sitting in a car. She kept going. Walking. Her legs a blur. He shut his eyes. He feared that it might be wrong. Opening his eyes, he looked over his shoulder. They were moving again. Cars and vans following him. The people in there all wanted to know what he thought. How does it feel to be a free man? What are your plans? Who really killed Doreen Stagg? Mister Myrden. Freedom. Plans. He watched toward his son. He saw Danny’s hand on the steering wheel, the tattooed words on his fingers.
“Those fuckers,” said Danny. “How fucking angry does that make you?” Danny’s eyes in the rearview. Getting meaner. “You gonna kick the shit outta Grom? That lying fuck.”
But he wasn’t angry. He was still. He was calm. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do now. Who was he supposed to hurt? He watched the reflection of his son’s angry eyes. Danny still talking. He heard his son sniff heavily with rage. Expecting something. If there was anyone to hurt, it would be himself. That was how he felt. The worse, the better. Get it done with.
“Those fuckers. All the time you were innocent.”
Innocent. That was a word from inside. Spoken often. Innocent. He didn’t know about that. It was always good for a laugh. An ugly laugh. The way they did inside. The way it just burst out of you. When that word was spoken. A laugh changing to something else. Pitting itself against you. Innocent. That word and the look in the eyes of someone new saying it. Then knowing better by the ugly laughter. Never saying it again. Who ever knew for sure? Knew for certain? But it was always good for a laugh.
The houses began to change. The bungalows and older houses with nice yards turned to smaller houses with smaller yards, and then row houses. Doorsteps right on the asphalt curb. No yards. No sidewalks. Children in the street. Playing like they owned the place. Not minding the cars. The cars were meant to watch out. For them. See what happens if you hit me. Go ahead. See where that’ll get you. Adults standing in their doorways, watching the cars move by. One or two of them shouting at a child, or raising their hands. To wave. Like they knew him. Like they were waiting to catch sight of him. Danny’s car. They must recognize it.
The car pulled up in front of his wife’s house. He looked at the door release. Took hold of it with his bent fingers that ached. Broken too many times. He pulled the handle. Springs and steel clicking. Uncomplicated machinery. Easy to open. Easy to break. He could get out of this with a push. The door swung open. Too hard. He hadn’t meant that. Swung right open. No one standing there to take his arm. To make certain. It swung back on him. He stopped it with his hand.
He stepped out. The bottoms of his shoes flat to the asphalt. Air above and around him. Space shooting off in all directions. Space fitted round him. Shooting off in all directions.
Copyright © 2006 Kenneth J. Harvey
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