Outside the Linesby Amy Hatvany
A gripping novel about a woman who sets out to find the father who left her years ago, and ends up discovering herself.
When Eden was ten years old she found her father, David, bleeding on the bathroom floor. The suicide attempt led to her parents’ divorce, and David all but vanished from Eden’s life.
Twenty years later, Eden runs/b>/b>
A gripping novel about a woman who sets out to find the father who left her years ago, and ends up discovering herself.
When Eden was ten years old she found her father, David, bleeding on the bathroom floor. The suicide attempt led to her parents’ divorce, and David all but vanished from Eden’s life.
Twenty years later, Eden runs a successful catering company and dreams of opening a restaurant. Since childhood, she has heard from her father only rarely, just enough to know that he’s been living on the streets and struggling with mental illness. But lately there has been no word at all. After a series of failed romantic relationships and a health scare from her mother, Eden decides it’s time to find her father, to forgive him at last, and move forward with her own life. Her search takes her to a downtown Seattle homeless shelter, and to Jack Baker, its handsome and charming director. Jack convinces Eden to volunteer her skills as a professional chef with the shelter. In return, he helps her in her quest.
As the connection between Eden and Jack grows stronger, and their investigation brings them closer to David, Eden must come to terms with her true emotions, the secrets her mother has kept from her, and the painful question of whether her father, after all these years, even wants to be found. The result is an emotionally rich and honest novel about making peace with the past—and embracing the future.
“There are no storybook perfect endings here, but this compelling novel raises the possibility of a hopeful way forward.” —The Seattle Times
“Will delight readers…vivid and written with a depth of feeling.” —Library Journal
"Like a gorgeous dark jewel, Hatvany’s exquisitely rendered novel explores the tragedy of a mind gone awry, a tangled bond of father and daughter, and the way hope and love sustain us. This novel does what the best fiction does: it makes us see and experience the world differently." —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
"This extraordinary novel about a woman's search for her lost fatherand herselftouched me deeply. With her trademark insight and compassion for her characters, Amy Hatvany has written a beautiful and moving book. Were there Oscars for novels, Outside the Lines would sweep the categories."
—Melissa Senate, author of The Love Goddess' Cooking School
"Outside the Lines offers a fascinating look at the interior of a mental illness—the exuberance and self-loathing, creativity and destruction that then reverberate against the lives of family and loved-ones. Hatvany’s storyline is compelling, weaving back and forth between father and daughter, patiently explaining as it asks all the important questions."
—Juliette Fay, author of Shelter Me
"Outside the Lines is a tender and lovely novel that explores the boundaries of love and how we break those boundaries in its name. It's sad and funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming. You'll want to read this book slowly. When you're finished, you'll want to read it again."
—Rebecca Rasmussen, author of The Bird Sisters
“I’m telling everyone about Best Kept Secret. It’s the realistic and ultimately hopeful story of Cadence, whose glass of wine at the end of the day becomes two…then…three…then a bottle. I love that Cadence feels so familiar, she could be my neighbor, my friend, or even my sister.” —Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“I was transfixed by Cadence and her heart-wrenching dilemma. The writing is visceral, the problems are real, and there are no clear solutions. You won’t want to put it down.” —Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed
“Touching, hopeful, and so real…Amy Hatvany writes with depth and compassion about a secret many have kept as she offers the miracle chance of starting over. I loved these characters and this novel.” —Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Boat
“Rarely do I find a book that stays with me long after I’ve finished it, but this is definitely one. The writing is warm, witty, thoughtful and heartbreaking, and that ending—I’m still thinking about it.” —Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay
“One of the most compelling books I’ve read in years. This heartfelt, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel will start an important dialogue about the secrets we keep…and it could even save lives.” —Sarah Pekkanen, author of Skipping a Beat
- Washington Square Press
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Read an Excerpt
The call came at three thirty in the morning, a time slot predestined for the arrival of bad news. No one calls to tell you you’ve won the lottery in the middle of the night. Your boyfriend doesn’t call you to propose.
The shrill of my cell phone dug into my dreams and wrenched me from sleep. This is it, I thought. He’s dead. Six months ago, I’d given the morgue at Seattle General my number along with a copy of a twenty-year-old picture of my father. “I don’t care what time it is,” I told the hospital administrator. “If he turns up, I’ll come right away.”
The picture was the last one I had of him. In it, his blue eyes were bright and his smile was wide. My father was a tall man, whip thin but sinewy and strong. He had wavy black hair like mine and wore it parted down the middle and to his shoulders, like Jesus. His expression in the photo gave no clue of the chemical anarchy wreaking havoc in his brain. It was invisible, this enemy that attacked his moods. “This is not an illness,” he said insistently. “This is who I am.” He pounded his chest with his fist in emphasis, in case my mother and I were confused as to whom he referred. The medications changed him, he said. They brought on such terrible mental inertia that every one of his thoughts became an unwieldy, leaden task. He preferred the wild highs and intolerable lows to a life of not giving a damn. At first, as a child, I didn’t blame him. After he disappeared, blaming him was all I did.
I dressed hurriedly in the dark of my tiny bedroom. Jasper lifted his head, wagged his tail two times, then promptly put his head on my pillow and let loose a guttural sigh. He was ten—an old man of a dog. His brindle coat was wisped through with silver; he slept pretty much twenty hours of the day. I happened upon him in the alley of one of my first restaurant jobs, luring him toward me with bits of pancetta. He wiggled his fat little puppy butt in response and I was a goner. I took him home that night.
Before leaving the house, I walked to the kitchen to put food in his bowl, then returned to my room and scratched his head. “Be a good boy, Jasper,” I told him. “Make sure to bite any robbers.” His tail gave one solid thump against my mattress in response to my voice but otherwise, he didn’t move. He wouldn’t venture to the kitchen until after six, our normal waking time. I joked with my friends that Jasper was the best and most predictable man I knew. With him, I’d shared my longest and most successful relationship.
It was early October and the chill in the air had taken on a crisp, palpable bite. I sat in my car for a few minutes with my hands tucked between my thighs, waiting for the engine to warm up. My thoughts seesawed between the hope that the man lying on a slab in the morgue was my father and the prayer that he wasn’t. I was ten years old the last time I saw him, numbly watching from our front porch as the medics took him away. This was not how I wanted our story to end—my father dead before I had a chance to heal the hurt between us. But at least it would be an ending. At least I could finally let him go.
After backing out of the bumpy gravel driveway on the side of my house, I maneuvered through my quiet Green Lake neighborhood and headed south. The streetlights glowed eerily amber in the early morning fog as I drove toward downtown. The Columbia Center tower loomed in the distance, about ten blocks from my destination. I’d spent enough time on the streets of downtown Seattle to have its geography stitched into the grooves of my mind. Off the Union Street exit, the hospital was to the east, a well-known homeless shelter fourteen blocks west, an illegal tent city three blocks from there. I pictured the cobblestones of Pioneer Square and the railroad tracks beneath the viaduct where so many of Seattle’s homeless population dwelled. I wondered where they had found him. I wondered if he had thought of me before he died.
This last question repeated in my mind as I parked in the hospital garage. I quickly found my way to the basement and was escorted into an icy room barely lit by bluish fluorescent bulbs. On my left was a wall that looked like a stainless steel refrigerator with multiple square floor-to-ceiling doors. The air hinted of something black and fungal beneath an intense antiseptic overlay of cleaning products. I imagined that scent was death.
The technician who accompanied me into the room was the antithesis of what I expected a morgue worker to be—all blond hair and surfer-boy good looks instead of brooding, pale-skin goth. He stood next to me, smelling of spearmint gum. I heard the gentle pop in his mouth before he spoke.
“Are you ready, Ms. West?”
“Yes,” I said. I was more than ready.
A dark-haired girl dressed in light blue scrubs stood by the refrigerator wall and opened one of the doors, pulling out a body beneath a white sheet. She stood back with her hands linked behind her in an at-ease stance. The blond technician reached and pulled back the sheet, folding it neatly across the dead man’s chest. I kept my eyes on the substantial rise of the man’s stomach. This is a mistake, I thought. My father isn’t fat. He could have gained weight, sure, but that was another one of the side effects that made him forgo his medications.
The technician stepped back from the gurney and turned his head to look at me. “Is it him?”
I forced my gaze upward to the man’s swollen, puffy face. His skin possessed a dusty pallor, as though someone had pulled gray cotton batting over every inch of his flesh. He had scraggly black eyebrows and a beard; his long hair was wet and brushed back from his face, falling in a spidery fan beneath the back of his skull. His eyes were closed.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “It might be. Maybe. I haven’t seen him for twenty years.” My heart fluttered in my chest as I spoke. I didn’t expect not to know. I thought I’d recognize him right away. Had my mind erased so much of him? “Can I see his wrists?”
“His wrists?” said the technician. The girl didn’t speak.
The technician reached under the sheet and pulled out the man’s limp, beefy arm, hairy side up.
I swallowed hard. “Can you turn it over, please?”
The tech gave me a sidelong look but he did as I asked. I looked at the underside of the man’s wrist, poised and prepared for the sight of angry red and thickly knotted scars. I blinked a few times to make sure I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see. But the gray flesh was smooth and bare. If the man was my father, it wouldn’t have been. That much I knew for sure.
Relief collided messily with disappointment in the back of my throat. “No,” I said, releasing a breath it felt like I’d been holding since my cell phone woke me. “It’s not him.” A few errant tears edged their way down my cheeks.
“Are you sure? He fits the description. Except for the extra weight, but we figured maybe he’d gained it and you wouldn’t know.”
“I’m sure,” I said. “It isn’t him. But I can understand why you’d think it was.” I wiped my face with the back of my hand. “How did he die?” I asked, gesturing to the man on the gurney. The man who was not my father. I repeated this phrase silently in my mind to make sure I actually registered it. It wasn’t him. My father wasn’t dead. There was still a chance I could find him.
“Cardiac arrest,” the dark-haired girl said. “The medics brought him in from Pioneer Square. He was dead before they got to the ER.”
“Well, I hope you find out who he is,” I said. He’s somebody’s son. Maybe even another person’s father.
“It’s not likely,” said the technician. He snapped his gum, then looked guilty. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay.” Death was normal to him; he was accustomed to treating it casually. He spent more time with it than life.
“Let me walk you out,” the girl said.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said.
“I’m due for a smoke break anyway,” she said, walking over to the door leading to the outside hallway and opening it for me. “It can get a little tricky down here with all the weird turns to get to the outside world. I think they make it that way so no one accidentally ends up down here if they don’t really need to come.”
“Okay.” I looked one more time upon the man who was not my father. “Good luck,” I whispered to him, and both of the technicians looked at me strangely. Let them look. The poor man obviously had a rough life; he deserved a few well wishes for wherever he ended up.
Moving along the dimly lit corridor with the girl, I noticed our footsteps quickly fell into the same pattern, her white hospital clogs squeaking along the linoleum. We didn’t speak.
“Can I ask you something?” she finally said when we turned a corner and arrived at the door to the hospital parking garage.
“Sure,” I said, holding the door open for her to step through. We walked a little farther, stopping twenty feet or so from the door. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of her scrubs. She shook one out of the pack and held it, regarding it thoughtfully before she spoke.
“So, I’m curious.” Her voice echoed a bit in the almost empty garage. “Why are you trying to find your dad if he’s been out of your life so long? I never knew mine and I couldn’t give a shit where he is. I mean, it’s cool and all that you want to, but don’t you think maybe he likes it better this way? Maybe he doesn’t want to be found.”
“He’s sick,” I said, shrugging as I scanned the garage for where I’d parked my car. “He doesn’t even know he’s lost.”
After I drove home from the hospital and took Jasper for a quiet, predawn stroll around Green Lake, I called my mother. It was our Friday morning ritual and God forbid I forgot or slept in past eight o’clock. Each week she sat at her kitchen table sipping green tea and tapping her fingers next to the phone, waiting for it to ring. She wouldn’t call me; I was the child. It was expected that I call to check in.
Our weekly call had irritated Ryan, my most recent boyfriend, beyond belief. “Can’t we have just one Friday morning where you don’t have to call your mother?” he pled with me. “You’re thirty-one, for Pete’s sake.”
“Did you just use the phrase ‘for Pete’s sake’?” I teased him, trying to lighten the air between us. It had become heavy during the last months of our relationship, bristling with unmet expectations. “What are you, fifty?”
“I’m serious, Eden. You’re tied way too tightly to your mother’s apron strings.”
I snorted. “Oh, so I should be like you, then, and talk to my mother only when I need another withdrawal from her bank account?”
If I remember correctly, that was one of the last arguments we had. Six months later my life returned to normal with Jasper in his rightful spot beside me in bed. It was easier that way.
“Good morning, honey,” my mother chirped when she answered her phone.
“Hey, Mom,” I said. I sat on my couch, a chocolate leather hand-me-down from my mother and stepfather’s last redecorating overhaul project. My mother changed her décor almost as often as some people change their bedsheets. She was a relentless bargain hunter and could completely change the look of a room without spending more than five hundred bucks. When they redid their living room, they gave me the couch, a teak coffee table, and a set of three wrought iron lamps. The only off-the-shelf piece of furniture I owned was the television, and that’s only because the flat-screen they had offered me was too large for the walls of my tiny box of a house.
“How are you this morning?” she asked. “Did you have to work last night?”
“Yep. A corporate event in Bellevue. I’m wiped.” I worked as the head chef for a large catering company while I tried to build up enough capital and connections in the industry to launch my own restaurant. I dreamed of opening a small, classy café with a lengthy wine list, no more than ten tables, and a seasonal, eclectic menu. Unfortunately, unless I could find a ridiculously rich investor, this dream wouldn’t be realized any time soon.
“How late did you get in?” Mom asked.
“Only eleven, but I got a call from Seattle General around three thirty so I’ve been up since then.”
“Oh no,” said Mom. “What happened?”
I paused. I knew she wasn’t going to like what I was about to share, but I also knew she wouldn’t leave it alone until I told her. I took a deep breath. “They thought they had Dad in their morgue.”
As I suspected she would be, Mom was silent.
I went on. “It wasn’t him, though. It looked like him a little bit. The dark hair and the height were right, but this guy was really heavy and—”
“And what?” she said, interrupting. Her voice was sharp. She didn’t like talking about him. She’d rather have pretended he never existed—to tell herself the story that I’d simply appeared in her womb.
“And he didn’t have the scars Dad would have. On his wrists.”
She sighed. “I don’t get why you’re doing this to yourself.”
“I don’t know how to explain it to you. It’s just something I need to do.”
She didn’t understand. My search wasn’t about her—I knew she was done with him long ago. That last time, the time when the medics came, was the end for her. A week later she served him divorce papers in the state hospital and he signed them without dispute. But me, I wasn’t done. I wanted my father. When he didn’t come to see me, when he didn’t even try to call, I began conjuring him in the face of every man who crossed my path. Each of my breaths became a wish that the next corner I turned would be the one where he’d appear.
It only took a year for me to stop wishing. At eleven years old, I told myself I was done with him, too. Screw him, I thought. He doesn’t want me. I don’t want him, either. By that time my mother had married John and I told myself my new stepfather could fill the empty space in my heart. John was a good man, a fireman with a generous soul. But it didn’t matter how good he was or how hard he tried. He couldn’t fit in a space custom-built for another man.
My father did try to get in touch with me after I graduated high school, but after eight years of no contact from him my hurt had hardened into hatred and I refused to respond. He was staying on his meds, the two letters I received said. He was back in Seattle. He was holding down a job. Back in Seattle? I wondered. Where did he go? Did something happen that kept him from coming to see me? I told myself I didn’t care. Too bad, I thought. Too little, too late. I threw his letters away.
There were, of course, moments when I missed my dad. My black hair was just like his, as was my pale skin, narrow face, and vivid blue eyes. Looking in the mirror was a frequent, painful reminder that he was gone. Once, in my early twenties, I went to a friend’s wedding only to make a quick exit when her father walked her down the aisle. It was too much to stand, knowing my father would never do the same for me. As more time passed, I started to toy with the idea of trying to find him. Then, last fall, I sat by my mother in the hospital, holding her hand and watching poison drip into her veins in an attempt to annihilate the jagged cells that had already stolen her breasts. I suddenly realized how selfish I had been—how little time any of us are given with those we love. I started thinking more and more about my father, wondering where he was and if he was safe. His letters mentioned time he spent living on the streets. I worried that he was driven back to a homeless existence not only by his illness but by my lack of response. I worried I wouldn’t find him in time for him to forgive me.
“You need to find him even after everything he put you through?” My mother’s voice yanked me back to the present.
“He’s been through quite a bit himself, if you think about it,” I said. Jasper whimpered at my feet, where he was taking a much-needed nap after our Green Lake excursion. I rubbed his back with the tips of my toes and he quieted.
“That was his choice. Or have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t forgotten anything.” I sighed. “I don’t want to argue about this with you, okay? Can we just change the subject, please? How’s Bryce? Is his competition this weekend or next?” My twenty-year-old half brother, Bryce, was the reason my mother married John six months after my father disappeared from our lives. A successful high school wrestler, Bryce had opted for a career in personal training and competitive bodybuilding instead of college.
“It’s tomorrow at two. Can you make it?”
“Maybe, but it depends on what time I have to work. I think we have a wedding, but I don’t remember for sure. I’ll check the schedule when I get in today.” I paused. “How’s John?”
“He’s fine. Down at the station on the tail end of a seventy-two-hour shift. He’ll be home tonight.”
“You’re feeling okay? Not overdoing it?”
“Yes, dear. I’m feeling fine. Dr. Freeland says my counts look great. My energy’s up. So you can stop mothering me.”
“I’ll stop if you do,” I teased.
“That’s impossible. When you have a baby you’ll understand.”
“I’d like to have a husband first,” I said, then wished I could pull the words back. I wasn’t up for one of her pep talks around finding a man.
She sighed. “Well, maybe if you went out a little more you’d meet someone.”
I stifled my own sigh. “I work weekends and I’m thirty-two years old with a decent IQ. I have zero interest in the club scene. Most of the men there are only interested in hooking up, anyway. They’re not looking for a wife.”
“What about the Internet? My friend Patty found her husband online. She said it was like shopping for a credenza!”
I laughed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I feel like it’ll happen if it’s supposed to.”
“Oh, fine. I just hope for you, sweetie. You have so much to give.”
We hung up a few minutes later and I continued to sit on the couch, thinking about my romantic past. Working in the restaurant industry, I’d dated plenty of men for one or two months. Even a year at a time. Only two relationships before my more recent one with Ryan turned into anything serious.
First was Wyatt, a fellow culinary student whose dark brown bedroom eyes and wicked smile never failed to make my heart do backflips in my chest. He had this effect on a lot of women and I counted myself lucky to have landed him. After a year of dating, filled with lots of great sex and what I thought was meaningful conversation about sharing our lives and someday opening a restaurant together, I realized that I wasn’t the only item on Wyatt’s daily menu. It turned out he had bigger appetites than that. A dishwasher one night, the hostess and then me the next. He dumped me unceremoniously for a line cook at Denny’s.
Sixteen celibate months later, Stephen appeared in my life, a man whom I swore I would not fall in love with after the torture of what I had gone through with Wyatt. But Stephen was sensible, a financial planner who started his own firm at twenty-five years old. He was a safe choice, a careful choice, and he bored me out of my skull. I learned that no matter how much I wanted it to, a successful romance couldn’t be based on a mutual adoration of organization and Excel spreadsheets. After eighteen months of trying to meld myself into someone he actually could love, I came to my senses and broke up with him.
Not too long after that particular breakup I read somewhere that until a woman resolves the issues she has in her relationship with her father, she isn’t capable of having a lasting, intimate connection with a partner. If there’s something broken in her primary relationship with a male, the odds of success in any other romantic relationship she forms are pretty slim. I thought about Wyatt, who had been like my father in so many ways—irreverent, fun, and unpredictable. I wondered if I was attracted to him because of that. The idea creeped me out. I began to wonder if it wasn’t the men I chose who were dysfunctional, it was me.
Three hours later, after a catnap and another quick trot around the block for Jasper, I drove downtown and entered the enormous hotel-style kitchen where I spent a majority of my days. Emerald City Events was one of the biggest catering companies in Seattle, located in a large brick building overlooking the waterfront. We provided services to any event, from intimate book club get-togethers to the largest wedding receptions imaginable. The company employed about twenty people in the kitchen, not including the waitstaff, and being the head chef was a busy job. That night we had three cocktail parties to prep for, one on-site, and two five o’clock deliveries. With rush hour that would prove to be a good trick—I’d need the drivers to be out the door no later than three thirty, just to be safe.
All three parties had ordered chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce. Everyone loved the dish, but it was a pain in the ass to get timed correctly, especially so it wouldn’t dry out before service. To avoid that particular pitfall, I made sure to soak the cut-up chicken in a flavorful yellow curry marinade for at least eight hours before I cooked it, but if we didn’t get them on the grill soon, they wouldn’t cool down enough in time for transport. I was elbow-deep in the preparation of the dipping sauce that would accompany the chicken—a mixture of peanut butter, coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, and sugared ginger—trying to find the exact balance between spicy and sweet. I wasn’t in a position to get the meat on the grill.
“Can you get those chicken skewers fired, please, Juan?” I hollered from my station in front of the ten-burner Wolf stove. Ten of my other staff members worked diligently at their stations, cutting, slicing, and stirring according to the directions I printed out for them on a spreadsheet at the beginning of their shift. Their tasks were listed next to the exact time they should start and complete each. Cooking was a game of timing, and I loved it. Organization was key.
“Gotcha, boss!” my sous chef, Juan, yelled from across the kitchen. “I’m on it! The grill is hot as a mofo and ready to go.” He spun around in some bastardization of a Michael Jackson move and pointed both his index fingers at me like they were pistol barrels. “What else you need?”
I laughed, shaking my head as I stirred the concoction in the enormous stockpot in front of me. “I need you to stop dancing and put together all the veggie trays while you cook the chicken. Wilson and Maria did all the prep earlier, I think. Everything should be in the walk-in.”
“You got it!” Juan leapt over to the huge, stainless steel walk-in refrigerator and flung open its door. He was the only employee who didn’t need a spreadsheet. I’d worked with him for about five years at that point and I knew I could depend on him to get the job done right. He was the tiniest bit crazy, but it was the fun, kooky variety of crazy, not the scary, I-might-stalk-you type, so while we busted our butts in the kitchen, he always entertained me in the process. At twenty-three, he still lived at home with his parents and five younger brothers and sisters, an arrangement I could never have fathomed for myself. But Juan’s father was disabled after an accident at work and his mother had to care for him, so outside of a meager monthly allotment from the state, Juan was the family’s only source of income. I made sure he took a hefty portion of any servable leftovers home with him at the end of his shifts.
Within minutes the heavenly scent of charred curry wafted through the air, making my empty stomach growl. I was blessed with a ridiculously fast metabolism—a gift from my father, I assumed, since my mother fought against every pound. I, on the other hand, couldn’t go more than a couple of hours without some kind of sustenance, and no matter how much I ate I never seemed to gain any weight. My best friend, Georgia, cast evil curses upon me for this particular trait, while I simultaneously envied her naturally voluptuous hips and great rack. I wasn’t super skinny by any means and my chest wasn’t totally invisible, but my slender frame certainly didn’t invite the wolf whistles Georgia earned just swaying down the street.
I finished the sauce and turned off the burner beneath the pan. On my way to the table in the back of the kitchen that I kept stocked with snacks for the staff, I checked the sausage-stuffed mushroom caps that Natalie, one of my prep cooks, was working on. They were precariously overfull and, once baked, would morph into a greasy, awful mess. “You might want to back down on the amount of filling, Nat,” I advised. “Use the mini cookie scoop instead of a spoon. That way you get them proportioned exactly the same. You’ll need to redo them.”
I heard her sigh quietly. “Is there a problem?” I asked. She was new; I had meant the advice to be helpful, but I knew from experience my sense of efficiency could be interpreted as brusque. Or bitchy. Take your pick.
“No, Chef,” she said. “I’ll redo them.”
“Be quick, please. We’re on a tight schedule.” I hopped over to the snack table and made myself a quick sandwich of thinly sliced grilled flank steak and Swiss cheese on a small ciabatta roll. Juan strolled down the line from his station; his lanky frame and fluid movements suddenly reminded me of my father’s. I’d managed to push Dad out of my mind since the conversation with my mother that morning, but there he was, back again. The image of the dead man on the gurney in the hospital flashed in my mind, and the bite of sandwich I had just swallowed stuck in my throat.
“You okay, boss lady?” Juan inquired as he sidled up next to me and reached for a three-cheese onion roll. He was the only employee I let call me anything other than “Chef.”
I swallowed before speaking. “Yeah, fine. Just tired, I think. I had a late night.”
“More private detective work?” I’d told Juan the basics of my trying to find my father. How I’d started by simply putting the name “David West” into an online search engine, then checking every major city’s online white pages for his name. David West was an incredibly common moniker—over three hundred in the greater Seattle area alone.
“What are you going to say?” Georgia asked me when I informed her of my plan to call each one of the Seattle numbers. “‘Excuse me, but do you happen to be the David West who abandoned his daughter and spent much of his adult life in the nuthouse?’”
“No,” I had laughed. “I’ll just ask to speak with David West. I’ll know his voice.”
“You think?” Georgia appeared doubtful.
I made the calls. None of them were my father, of course. I had an old address—the Seattle return address on the letters he sent ten years ago—but I soon discovered the last officially known record of his whereabouts was the state mental hospital out past Monroe. They hadn’t seen him in three years and wouldn’t give me any more information other than that he had left against medical advice. So after my failed phone calls, the next natural place to look for him was the streets, the only other place I knew for sure he had been.
Juan’s voice brought me back to the kitchen. “Yoo-hoo? Eden?” He waved a hand in front of my face. “You in there?”
I blinked and smiled at him. “Yeah, I’m here. Sorry.”
“So, more detective work?” he asked, prodding.
“Sort of, I guess.” I didn’t feel like describing my trip to the morgue. “I’m going to a new homeless shelter tonight. The one down on Pine?”
Juan picked up a piece of pineapple and popped it in his mouth. “You want company?” I shook my head and took another bite of my sandwich. “Awright,” he said. “But if you ask me, a pretty lady like yourself shouldn’t be wandering the streets at night on her own.”
“I appreciate your concern,” I said, tossing the remainder of my sandwich in the trash. My appetite had left me. Juan meant well, I knew. But I’d made it this far without a man to look out for me. No reason to start needing one now.
© 2012 Amy Hatvany
Meet the Author
Amy Hatvany is the author of three other novels, including Best Kept Secret. She lives in Seattle with her family.
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Outside the Lines is a book that grabs the reader from page one. Early on I was invested in Eden and her search for her father. I wanted Eden to reconnect with David in order for her to heal from the void his absence had created. With each new clue to his whereabouts, I found myself filled with emotion: excited that she may see him again, but yet fearful that David's story may not have a happy ending. Hatvany tells the story of David and Eden in both their voices, which was the strength of the novel for me. Chapters alternate from the past to the present as David and Eden take turns narrating. Hatvany's transitions are so smooth, that I quickly adjusted and did not have to rely on the chapter headings to inform me if it was David or Eden, past or present. Reading David's struggles with staying on his medication and trying to live a "normal" life in his voice was refreshing. I don't think I would have been as captivated with him had I read about him from Eden's (or her mother's) perspective. Hatvany's talent lies within creating characters the reader cares about and keeps in her thoughts long after the book is put down. Eden is a complicated character. She's successful in her career, dreams about owning a restaurant, and has family and friends who care about her. But yet it's hard for her to truly love another man because of the unresolved issues she has with her father. She's dedicated to finding David, not only to see him again, but she also realizes it's necessary for her self-growth and to face the future that awaits her. Outside the Lines is a gripping novel about how mental illness not only impacts the individual with the diagnosis, but also the family. If you're looking for a story rich with family dynamics and likeable, flawed characters, you will not want to miss Outside the Lines. Highly recommended.
Mental illness is the plague of the modern world. We treat the symptoms, but can do nothing for the problem itself. Drugs are just a temporary fix for so many and at the same time make the individual feel like someone else. This book explores the world of mental illness and the devastation it has wreaked on the main characters life. She is not the ill individual but her father. She loves him and thinks that if he just loved her enough he could change. The relationships and the love between the characters in this book are endearing and heartbreaking at the same time. I’ve worked with mental illness in my career and it breaks my heart more times then it doesn’t. The feelings of Eden are easily felt by the reader and I have to admit I cried at the end. A beautiful story unfolds as you turn the pages, one which will pull at your heartstrings and make you want to hug those you love...especially you dad. This book flows well, is easy to follow and difficult to put down. If you enjoy stories about real life that could really happen you will enjoy this book. I loved the way the author brought the father’s point of view across you don’t usually get that side of the story. Her father showed that sometimes love is not enough to change who we truly are, yet it is enough to keep us connected even if only in thought. 4 1/2 stars
Very good read, couldn't put it down. Would recommend.
A book where mental illness takes center stage, but the reader gets a full picture with this read - from both the person fighting the illness to the family that is affected by the highs and the lows of the disease. The format of this book was a perfect way to share the story both what is currently happening to the full story of the past. From the beginning we meet Eden who has been severely damaged by her father's battle with a mental illness. She has struggled with her romantic relationships and can not find fulfillment at her job. Throughout the book you read the past from both her perspective and her fathers and learn why she has come to be the adult she is now. I absolutely loved reading the perspective of her father and having moments in his head as he tried to conform to society's standards and be a father and a husband. A story that hits you deep in your heart and makes you want to rescue her from her expectations of a father that can't live up to them. I fell hard into this book and was swallowed hole by the story. I couldn't put down if I tried!
This is my third book by Amy Hatvany, and each one of them is sooooo deserving of 5 stars+. I am delighted I found this author through my reading of Sarah Pekkanen’s books (another one of my favorites)! I could not put “Outside the Lines” down- Amy did an outstanding job of capturing the experience of mental illness, with the alternating perspectives of David (father) and Eden (daughter), as well as moving back and forth in time. It gave much insight and depth to each of the characters, feelings, and emotions. Amy’s subject matter is so real with raw emotion--the family dynamics, making each of her books so unique. I could really sympathize with all the characters, and put in this situation, not sure how I would have reacted. Lydia did all she could do in protecting her daughter and at some point in time you become an enabler. In the end David did not enjoy being trapped and being on the streets, gave him the freedom. The character of Jack was amazing and the dynamics of his relationship with Eden, as well as her relationship with step brother and stepfather. In a way, I feel Jack could sympathize with David, as he too chose a path of freedom away from this own controlling father. I do believe highly talented creative artistic minds work differently, and they demand a lot of solitude in order to create their masterpieces; being drugged and hospitalized would take away that inspiration. The ending was brilliant and loved everything about this novel – it will bring tears. The love the author put into this book, the research, and her background working in shelters,--definitely reflected throughout. (I can just picture the Garden of Eden) and have a few of the cast members in mind for a possible movie!
"It’s incredibly hard to write about this book without giving too much away, so I’ll try my best! This is a tough and extremely emotional subject, and the author has written it beautifully. My heart broke for each and every one of the characters as their stories tragically unfolded. Eden is a strong and courageous character who has been through so much in such a short amount of time. Her father attempted suicide, which led to her parent’s divorce and her father disappearing. Her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. Feeling as though she must, Eden decides to track down her father, only to find out painful secrets that have been hidden from her for so many years. The pain and betrayal she feels throughout the book is agonizing, but the growth that she endures is awe-inspiring. I walked away from this book feeling as though I found insight into my own life and the relationships that I hold dear, appreciating each and every one a little more than I did before. Inspiring and emotional, this book will touch you deeply. Just make sure you have some Kleenex close by. Reviewed by Marie for Cocktails and Books
Very good book, first time i read a book from this author and already ordered her other book. You won't be disappointed if u purchase this book!
This book was amazing! Could not put it down, has a great storyline. Loved how the book told both sides to the story from David's point or view and Eden's.
This is sure to be one of my all-time favorites. This writer pulls you in right away and suddenly you are hooked. The complicated relationship plots are icing on the cake. Cannot wait to read more of her books.
First I want to say that I loved the author's style of writing. She did a great job with two different views of the same thing and covering a vast age difference. Prior to reading the book, I have always felt that the majority of those living on the street made the choice to do this regardless of their circumstances. I feel this author's message reiterated my same feelings. I understand that making a drastic change to their way of life would be very difficult, but I feel that if they really wanted to, they could. I enjoyed the ending of the book and felt it was the right ending for this story.
Great story...kept my interest.
Havatny isn't poetic, does not use beautiful language to describe things, and certainly struggles with realistic dialogue. But what she does do is create very honest characters who are interesting, creative, and seemingly real as they each battle their own personal demons. Her plot is a good one- how a family is affected by one member's mental illness. She includes details that are very real and sort of sucks you in and makes you want to read more. You forget how bad her conversations between characters are, or how she mentions things that are so unimportant to the central text- just so you could learn more about the mentally ill father. I did read this rather quickly and thought it was overall a fair book. I would recommend it to anyone who can relate to the story line. I'm not sure I'll read any more of her books.
Learning to let someone be who they, despite what we think is best
not my favorite
I really enjoyed this book since it was written from two perspectives (Eden and her father). Although it deals with the difficulty of trying to have a "normal" relationship with someone with a mental illness, it's also much more than that. I feel that any story that can teach you about compassion is a great read.
Last night, our monthly book club had an interesting discussion using the questions supplied at the back of the book. The concept of both main characters telling their side of events was well received. Recommend this book for clubs and for anyone with mental illness in their family/friends.
What a great book. This was my first time reading a book from this author. Can't wait to start the next one. Hope she writes many more.
From the description of the story I thought I would love this book. I liked it but did not fall in love. The love story in the book got to feeling cheesy and over the top.
I read this for bookclub and enjoyed it a lot. It gives a person a different perspective on people with mental health problems. it is a fast read as you want to know does she ever find her Dad.
Interesting depiction of the mind of someone living with bi polar=
Once again Amy Hatvany delivers a powerful, emotional novel. When I finish a book and continue thinking about it for days, I cannot help but be impressed. When I finish a book and my viewpoint on the subject matter is altered even slightly, that is profound. Ms. Hatvany’s writing tends to have this affect on me. She handles the subject of mental illness with an elegance that is characteristic of her writing. The story is told in two points of view. We not only see how Eden is affected by her father’s illness but how David, himself, struggles with it. The care and respect she uses to create these characters shines through. Even when David is at his worst, he is tolerable. Even when I didn’t agree with Eden, I still could see where her feelings were rooted and it made them a little more understandable. This is an extraordinary book and I would highly recommend reading it. I just don’t know that I have the words to give it the justice it deserves. It is beautiful and heartbreaking. I am glad that Ms. Hatvany chooses to share her gift with us in her books. I can’t wait to see what comes next.