It’s a voyage of hilarious and harrowing adventures, told in the irresistible voice of a restless, superstitious man determined to live right but tormented by his past. At times, it feels as though Obreht has managed to track down Huck Finn years after he lit out for the Territory and found him riding a camel. She has such a perfectly tuned ear for the simple poetry of Lurie’s vision ... On the day we meet her, Nora has run out of water—a calamity that Obreht conveys with such visceral realism that each copy of Inland should come with its own canteen ... The unsettling haze between fact and fantasy in Inland is not just a literary effect of Obreht’s gorgeous prose; it’s an uncanny representation of the indeterminate nature of life in this place of brutal geography ... Sip slowly, make it last.
Magic realism served Obreht well in her fable about Yugoslavia’s baroque divisions, and it’s no less effective in shaping this alternative foundation myth about the American west. On the face of it the book begins conventionally enough ... The twist lies in Obreht’s affinity for unusual transformations ... Exquisitely panoramic as it is, Lurie’s account of his travels forms only one strand of the novel. It’s interwoven with the tale of a single day in the life of Nora, a frontierswoman ... Obreht builds a narrative that is every bit as compelling as Lurie's and just as full of revelations. Their parallel journeys into Arizona’s inhospitable interior...probe the cost of survival and the human yearning to belong. On every page gorgeously tinted images conjure the otherworldliness of this desert existence ... It’s the west, but not as we know it. Nora and Lurie are set on a collision course: will they meet? Obreht’s narrative skill here is part of the magic of Inland, which succeeds spectacularly at reinventing a well-worn genre and its tropes. There are no stereotypes in this western, only ferociously adroit writing that honours the true strangeness of reality in its search for the meaning of home.
These two extraordinary characters navigate the dangers of the frontier, driven at times by literal thirst and haunted by a more intangible want ... Obreht is at her most captivating when she reveals Nora’s innermost thoughts, especially those she hesitates to acknowledge on the edges of her consciousness ... As it should be, the landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered ... Here, Obreht’s simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West’s beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions ... There are a few places in the novel where readers might struggle to pinpoint the present moment of the story. Perhaps this is because in the toggling back and forth between Lurie’s and Nora’s perspectives, there are quite a few characters with complex circumstances to keep track of. Or it could be because a good chunk of Nora’s predicament is revealed slowly, through flashbacks ... In Obreht’s hands, this is an era that overflows with what the dead want, and with wants that lead to death. Her two central characters may not be who we have been conditioned to think of when we conjure the old American West, but they too are America.
...a rewriting of the Western that somehow comes closer to the loneliness, desperation and terror described in early accounts of that time ... It would be easy for a book like this to linger on solemnities of grit, but Obreht is too lively a writer to paint only in shades of grey muslin. This is a vigorous, funny and energetic novel ... Toggling between these two yarns, Obreht weaves a beautiful meditation on the way resilience engenders — requires, sometimes — a crushing sort of invisibility ... She has a gift for using the absurd to see the deformed qualities of reality anew ... in this big story — about a man stranded on the back of a camel, and a woman beached on a dying homestead — Téa Obreht has resurrected some of the hardest truth about America and its Western expansion. (She’s also laid the groundwork for what could someday be a great Coen Bros. film.) That its landscape gouged by movement, deformed by violence, was taken over by people often haunted by ghosts. The greatest danger, in many cases, was not what came over the horizon at them: but each other.
... [a] magnificent, sprawling new novel ... In juxtaposing these two narrators, Obreht moves beyond the suggestion implicit in The Tiger’s Wife: that myths help us to transcend cultural divides ... in Inland the use of the mythic is altogether more disorientating. Those who hold sincere faith in the occult (communing, for example, with the spirits of the deceased) rub, without authorial judgement, alongside casual dabblers (those who experiment with water divination, just in case) and staunch realists. The result—to borrow a phrase of Obreht’s—is to trap the reader 'between worlds,' making it 'hard to distinguish waking from dreaming' ... The different sections, moreover, have a way of bleeding into one another, so that we begin to forget the boundaries of a day, even of a life ... What ultimately unites Nora and Lurie is their disposition: their shared irreverence, perspicuity and perseverance. Like the rest of Obreht’s cast, and regardless of where they sit in time, they are pleasingly immediate—and so too is the novel’s historical backdrop, with its always circumstantial references to Native American tribes, the Stock Association, the impact of railroads and issues of nationhood and looming globalism. Obreht leads with an invisible hand. We hardly realize that she is piecing the story together until it emerges, at the end, as a kind of gestalt. If there are narrative gaps—and there are—the reader has worked to fill them. And what might have appeared as a sideshow—an epic battle between rival small-town newspapers; or the consequences of Lurie’s arbitrary theft—finds its place, in an ecstatic unification of more than just the novel’s central characters: of time itself.
To say that Téa Obreht’s long-anticipated follow-up to The Tiger’s Wife is worth the wait is like saying the Grand Canyon is worth the visit. It’s not wrong—it’s just insufficient ... This conjuring of trouble from thin air is an old-fashioned but spellbinding narrative sleight-of-hand, one a number of contemporary writers might benefit from studying ... Novels sung in a duet, like Nora and Lurie’s, hinge upon the expectation that its heroes meet eventually, despite and because of this unlikelihood at the outset. Nora’s story spans a day, Lurie’s decades; these different rhythms harmonize like a bass line and melody. By the time Obreht sings her aria—you’ll know it when you see it—I was so overwhelmed by this opus of a novel that I suddenly began to weep ... 'The sublime lives here,' one of her characters says of the West. The same could be said of Inland. In a moment where the book world fetishizes self-examination and minute, sentence-level showiness, it is not only a relief but a privilege to see Obreht shoot the moon with this sprawlingly ambitious and fully imagined tale. Great literature is to the spirit what water is to the body. Read Inland, and drink deeply.
...mordantly imaginative ... a desert story rendered in technicolor ... Obreht is the kind of writer who can forever change the way you think about a thing, just through her powers of description ... Inland is an ambitious and beautiful work about many things: immigration, the afterlife, responsibility, guilt, marriage, parenthood, revenge, all the roads and waterways that led to America. Miraculously, it’s also a page-turner and a mystery, as well as a love letter to a camel ... splendid.
Historically, the novel is well-founded, with real-life figures ... While true to facts, Obreht is equally loyal to her imagination, the cinematic dream of the West. Inland’s places grip their inhabitants in the dislocations and mergings of history and myth ... Obreht’s West is as harsh as that of contemporary mythmakers Cormac McCarthy and Robert Olmstead. But unlike those writers, Obreht doesn’t employ extreme violence just to stir up the reader. Also, she has no interest in the accoutrements of vintage and not-so-vintage Western films...The violence here is more personal ... Obreht doesn’t build her scenes on action. Even in violent moments, the violence is muted. Rather than blood and gore, the innards she shows us are those of the human spirit. Her intention is to take us inland ... demands the reader’s close attention, not only because its texture is intricate, and even a small detail may reveal an important plot point. Simply put, Obreht’s prose is beautiful ... a work of great power and accomplishment, proof that Obreht has the talent and discipline to produce literary work ever more profound and artful as the years go by.
The historical detail is immaculate, the landscape exquisitely drawn; the prose is hard, muscular, more convincingly Cormac McCarthy than McCarthy himself. If the western is the tale that America tells about itself, then this is an attempt to write a new chapter in that story ... The spark of the best historical fiction comes when the imagined world collides with the real; here, Obreht trawls up the fascinating history of the US camel corps, a short-lived attempt by the military to employ camels in the arid reaches of the south-west ... Obreht’s novel...explores the brutality and darkness that lurk beneath the veneer of the American dream ... a rebuke to isolationist US policies written with a panache and heart that you could imagine even that bibliophobe Donald Trump enjoying.
Inland is a Western, set in the drought-stricken Arizona Territory in 1893 and alternating between two familiar Western protagonists ... Familiar, too, is [Obrecht's] raconteur-ish narrative style, which is loose and digressive, with occasional Spanish and a faint old-fashioned patina. In other words Inland is a classic story, told in a classic way — and yet it feels wholly and unmistakably new ... This is a crucial difference between Inland and earlier Westerns, whose heroes tend to be white Protestants. Lurie is loosely Muslim, as are many of the minor characters in his plotline ... Lurie spends...Inland in flight, which means that unlike most Western heroes, he has no ability to stake a claim. As a result, Lurie's part of Inland cannot be a story of dominion or conquest. Instead, it becomes a platonic love story ... Inland is a novel built on the need to be heard. Nora talks ceaselessly to Evelyn, and Lurie talks ceaselessly to Burke ... Obreht offers a new representation of the West, both in the characters she chooses and the emotional rigor and range with which she writes. The result is at once a new Western myth and a far realer story than many we have previously received — and that's even with all the ghosts.
In her new book Obreht has swapped the tumultuous history of the former Yugoslavia for that of the American frontier. What she retains, in addition to infectious storytelling and a split, double narrative, is the strong sense of superstition which pervades the earlier fiction; a form of magic realism is at work here, which does not detract from the harshly explicit truths transmitted about the nature—and the price—of survival ... Nora and Lurie share a similar brittle, quick-witted and sardonic outlook, and although their paths will not converge until the book’s highly charged ending, their stories keep nudging up against each other along the way ... Obreht is as engrossing with her depiction of the colourful and disparate encounters experienced by Lurie and Burke as she is on the claustrophobia of small-town rivalries. In these fledgling communities lawlessness and occultism hold sway just as the modern age—that of telegraph wires, railroads and the burgeoning capitalism of a gleaming new century—fatefully beckons.
Rivers of blood and ink have been spilled mythologizing the American Southwest, but rarely if ever with the sort of giddy beauty Téa Obreht brings to the page ... The Serbian-American writer displays dazzling dexterity and wit with the English language, transporting the reader to a fantastical late 19th century that borders on outright fantasy, where descriptions wax decadent and ghosts are treated as a matter of fact ... Inland is a book in no great hurry to get to its point, ambling amiably across its phantasmagorical vision of the West. The prose is dense, occasionally impenetrable, with chewy passages that can feel, in the moment, like unnecessary discursions, though most prove essential by the story’s fateful finale ... Inland blows you open, too, its final pages reaching to set you abuzz.
I confused myself by disliking this book on first read and then, when going back a second time to dig for something to say, being absolutely blown away ... Once you get with the thythm of Inland, it really packs a punch. There are lots of details, but none of them is redundant. In fact, they contain a depth that seems bottomless. Obreht's debut won the Orange Prize for its mythic depiction of the Blakan Wars. It's been eight years coming but this literary western will likely invite similar adulation.
Rarely, a literary ending comes along that feels too perfect to limit to safe, vague praise. I’m not talking about the wild twists or clever reframings that’ve distinguished some of the year’s buzzier titles. Inland derives every dollop of its narrative tension from its climax-oriented structure, paralleling two character studies that must, by the laws of good storytelling, intersect. Obreht brilliantly approaches this inevitability by weaving it into the fabric of her haunted setting, where fate can’t help but grab the steering wheel ... Obreht is a robust writer: There’s meat on her characters, places, plots, themes, dialogue — all vividly rendered, deep and fresh and exciting, offering plenty to chew on ... What Obreht pulls off here is pure poetry. It doesn’t feel written so much as extracted from the mind in its purest, clearest, truest form.
...a bustling, bravura adventure that’s part Western, part Cormac McCarthy and part Obreht’s unique blend of spiritual realism in which, as her protagonists wrestle with their respective destinies, the voices of the dead are just as loud as those of the living ... This is not a novel to gulp down, but to savor, as Obreht fleshes out every possible detail in language that tastes both of the soil and of the skies. The final chapter, meanwhile, rich in poignant symbolism, is a wonder.
For an unforgettable journey into the West as it was, untamed, desolate at times, unruly, look no further than Tea Obreht’s striking Inland. This marvel of a saga is told by a master of prose ... Reading the book, you’ll become hot and thirsty with Nora, then bruised and embattled with Lurie, or Misafir. You cannot imagine what the two have to do with each other. And when it is revealed, the story becomes even more remarkable and poignant. This is where Obreht brings out the marvelous, improbable revelations; this is where paths intersect in the most amazing way. The final chapter, the last few pages, will leave you breathless. Obreht has created magic again, in the most plain and solid way such a book should end.
Inland...cuts an odd figure in the Western landscape, and is a surprising follow-up to Obreht’s début novel ... reimagining the oft-imagined is inevitably a fraught endeavor: it may be that one can’t upend a genre without being bound, in some way, to its age-old shortcomings. In Inland as in so many Westerns, Native Americans and Mexicans are often invoked by the immigrants and settlers who have come to replace them, but they are rarely developed into complex characters in their own right ... Obreht does not engage in the usual task of the revisionist Western, seeking to correct heroic fairy tales with infusions of compromised morality and violent grit. Her contribution is often playful in tone; we are far from Cormac McCarthy. But Inland still examines with great seriousness the line between reinvention and erasure ... The fraught inheritance of story provides for an unresolved tension at the center of Inland that lingers even after the novel ends. The legacy of myth and history, after all, is still written with confounding glory and ruin all across America’s long-settled frontier ... Propelled by her vision of self-authorship and mythmaking, the novel probes the limits of the American Western, even as it sometimes displays them.
Obreht distils an impressive volume of research to transport us to 19th-century America, and some of the novel’s wackiest details are based on reality ... Ultimately, it’s a ghost story, and it will appeal more to some readers than others. The first-person voice can let in tired hyperbole, and the talking-to-the-camel trope is arguably a quirk too far ... The writing here is some of the most confident, free-ranging prose I’ve read in months. Obreht bounds effortlessly from details of daily life to bold, pithy summaries condensing 20 years into a paragraph ... Obreht skilfully weaves in various characters and backstories, building up a narrative of great psychological complexity. She withholds just enough to make you feel surprised but not cheated by the ending ... This is a fine piece of historical fiction, avoiding traps of the genre ... Inland is a novel of two halves, and it’s debatable as to how successfully they meld. It’s also overlong. This reader would have been happy with just the realist storyline; on its own, it forms a dusty fable of emerging America to set beside Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams or Carys Davies’s West. With the addition of Lurie and the dead, it tilts close enough to genre fiction to risk cosiness ... I might place Inland in the odd category of children’s books for grown-ups, delighting in mystery and myth and sufficiently removed from reality to allow you to switch off and sink in ... I’m already looking forward to whatever Obreht writes next, whether it’s for grown-up children or — fingers crossed — something really adult.
It’s a tale of the pioneering west told from unexpected angles that, like her Orange prizewinning debut, is haunted with grief and ghosts, mysterious beasts and the heavy costs of conflict ... There’s a certain amount of heat-hazed meandering to Obreht’s tale as you wait to see how these lives will converge. For those with the patience to wait, she does lead us to a startling denouement. But there’s a ponderousness to the tone that can be off-putting ... Yet there are sparkling descriptions here...and she convincingly conjures the jagged anxiety of clinging on to life and livelihood in the face of terrible odds.
In ungulate fashion, Inland too unfolds like a dream ... despite Ms. Obreht’s inspired mimicry of the conventions of the Western, one never senses that Inland belongs to that genre, any more than The Tiger’s Wife was a novel about war in the Balkans. The true setting of both books is a smoky borderland between East and West, reality and fantasy, the living and the dead, textbook history and fairy tales. Ms. Obreht has the extraordinary ability to make a seamless whole from these fused parts, creating a fully immersive imaginary world governed by its own logic and oriented around its own truths ... Inland is a continuation rather than a departure, so it shares certain weaknesses with The Tiger’s Wife. The bedtime-story elements can become twee and caricatured...And the novel feels sanitized ... Yet that effect is so beguiling that when you’re under its spell the objections seem beside the point ... Inland is a place of killers, camels, families and phantoms. Reading it, you may feel as Lurie does: 'I had somehow wanted my way into a marvel that had never before befallen this world.' ”
...sentimental and meandering ... there’s little well-directed commentary about life, nature, art, ideas or anything much at all in Inland ... Let me pause to say: Obreht has real gifts as a storyteller...[but] Inland floats up and away, like a magic carpet bound for anywhere and nowhere ... All the drama feels fake, as if someone is backstage shaking a thunder sheet ...
Like Annie Proulx, Obreht is fond of offbeat nouns and verbs, especially when describing the natural world ... More common are observations and dialogue that are as softly didactic as refrigerator magnet slogans ... I realize I am being terribly hard on Obreht’s novel, but I felt lashed to its mast very early on and That Sinking Feeling never entirely went away. The many readers who will enjoy Inland and put it on best-seller lists can send an old curse in my direction.
Obreht employs an elaborate and ingenious structure ... In some ways, Inland lacks [The Tiger's Wife's] assurance. A reader looking for accuracy of Western detail—probably not the smartest approach to a novel containing fantastical elements—will stub a toe now and then ... A real Western ought to be lonesome, and Obreht does lonesome beautifully ... Echoes of classic American voices can be heard throughout Inland, along with strains of García Márquez ... Like Willa Cather, with her Bohemian settlers on the Nebraska prairie, Obreht introduces immigrants never seen before in the West.
Téa Obreht’s second novel is an expansive and ambitious subversion of Western tropes ... If Inland has a flaw it is that the two narrative strands do not tie together as satisfyingly as one would hope. Separate until the 11th hour, their collision falls a little flat, considering the odyssey we have been on. A book with so much plot ought to end with more of it. Yet there is so much to admire and enjoy here: the interplay of magic and reason, the threats of progress, the tribalism of a nation forming. Above all, the difficulty of simply living alongside one another, evoked in Obreht’s masterful language, variously lyrical, hilarious and profound.
...Téa Obreht’s M.O. is clear: She's determined to unsettle our most familiar, cliché-soaked genres ... the hefty and engrossing Inland...can feel like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian turned inside out: contemplative rather than rollicking, ghostly rather than blood-soaked. Obreht resists convention so strenuously that the novel sometimes feels like it’s trying too hard—that studied interiority can muffle its sense of adventure. But in its closing chapters Obreht elegantly merges Nora and Lurie’s fates, satisfying Obreht’s urge to play this old tune in a different key.
At the level of plot summary, Inland couldn’t sound any further from its predecessor—and like an incredible departure from the things that made The Tiger’s Wife so unique. But in Obreht’s hands, this tale of the wild west doesn’t linger on the landscape’s specificity in a way that can occasionally inspire purple prose ... Territorial Arizona is brought to life as something quite a bit more propositional: the punishing heat is the most relevant descriptor, and its effects are what the book’s characters fear the most ... Eventually, Nora’s desperate need for water fades into the background as conflicts with neighbors and a former lover grow more severe, and the complexity of the plot resists the answer that Obreht provides in the novel’s beautifully wrought final pages. But a thought of Nora’s after she has listened to a meandering tale herself captures the novel’s successes: 'They all had stories, didn’t they, just like this, interminable and essential to the world’s workings.'
...a rollicking, deeply empathetic adventure ... It would give the game away to explain how Nora and Lurie’s timelines end up colliding, but suffice to say it will remind you of the way train tracks can lock and switch across one another, connecting the whole world together where before there was only land ... Flowery vocabulary muddles an already muddled plot: Inland is a grand and rollicking novel, reminiscent of Dickens or H. Rider Haggard. But Obreht brings a cosmopolitanism to her writing that those Victorians could not ... Obreht’s camel is a walking symbol for the voiceless, including displaced peoples and those whose bodies have been abused by owners.
These two stories illustrate the lengths to which those who are desperate will go to survive, even as the near-desert landscape seems to conspire against them. Part old-west novel, part document of the American experience, readers are taken on a journey they are not soon to forget in Obreht’s Inland.
... a complex tale rooted deep in the myth of the Frontier, that imagined place at the edge of civilization. Inland reveals Obreht’s fascination with the history of the old West; she is a storyteller whose very writing of this novel sustains the idea of myths and magic, her writing often straddling the line between understanding and possession of the world she writes about. This movement between the two inclinations is reminiscent of the experience of immigration, reminiscent, in fact, of the fast-rising and presently relevant questions of the identity of America and the bigger 'West' ... Gabriel García Márquez believed that surrealism comes from reality, and he would certainly be pleased with the way Obreht uses the very real world of the old West to create and explore strange situations that are both believable and recognizable ... Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this novel, at the end of it all, is the spirit of its characters, of the Wild West, of the author herself: a determination, a sense of slow and steady movement forward, despite the obstacles. A movement inland.
Inland features far more reflection than action, but Obreht maintains emotional momentum with these looming uncertainties. She relishes moments when the otherwise confident, decisive Nora plants her foot on a stair in the darkness, only to find the stair has disappeared from under her ... Nora is Obreht’s most fully-fleshed creation to date. Her widely praised debut, The Tiger’s Wife, was more notable for its trancelike vividness, and its magnetic weaving of history and folklore, than for any depth of individual characters. With Inland, she’s drawn on an entirely different skill set. Readers observe Nora’s memories, mannerisms, flaws, fears, humor, and love. And yet, like with any real person, she seems to exist beyond the reach of list-worthy qualities ... There’s an anticipatory tedium to converging narratives that Inland can’t quite overcome. For the most part, these dual stories would work just as effectively in isolation. When connections arise, they’re lovely and fitting and, inescapably, a little too neat. If anything really binds the novel, it’s a hungry longing on every page ... It seemed like too much to hope that a writer who had been praised to the skies and back, who had become the youngest ever winner of the Women’s Prize, could continue to produce in a way that lacked self-consciousness .... That Inland, a novel guaranteed to appear on every 'most anticipated' list before a word of it had been written, could truly invest readers instead of just intriguing them. Well. What if it does?
The cliché of the superhumanly persistent lawman demonstrates how hard it can be to work within the mythologies of the American West. What is the best way to write about settling a land that was not the empty expanse shown in old movies but home to Native Americans? Obreht has characters of multiple white ethnicities and Latinos — for all of them, the isolation of their Arizona town allows for acceptance and reinvention. Through their 1893 eyes, Native Americans were frightening and seldom-seen villains. But as it’s 2019, it’s unfortunate that among all the varied characters we meet in Inland, Native Americans don’t ever leave the periphery. It’s a missed opportunity. At times, this sweeping story seems almost too big for even a writer of Obreht’s gifts. But it is saved by the camel and his rider Lurie, outsiders who can make a home no place other than the emptiest spaces of the West. Nora provides a difficult but necessary ballast as Lurie reverberates with the yearning of lost souls.
...reading Inland feels like a rare chance to read about people, history, and myth all at once without any part canceling out the others. The book is a marriage between some sort of Howard Zinn history lesson, E. L. Doctorow at his best, and the kind of murkily beautiful folktale that is so vivid in Obreht’s first novel, The Tiger’s Wife ... There are newspaper fights and gunfights and ghosts and romance, and I wish they’d all appeared earlier in the summer so I could tell the world THIS IS YOUR SUMMER READ. But in Inland, the past is present and will continue to be so into the fall and the next and the next.
It has been seven years since Obreht's extraordinary debut, The Tiger's Wife, won the Orange Prize. This, her second novel, reminded me what a blazing talent she is ... An extraordinary reimagining of the American West, which is as much about the land itself as it is about the people who eke a living from it.
It's eight years since Obreht's debut, The Tiger's Wife, made her the youngest winner of the Orange Prize. Inland, her second novel, is an equally skilful exploration of myth and fable, and histories both forgotten and elaborated ... Oberht packs a great deal into this narrative and the result is difficult, knotty novel, that both needs – and rewards – persistence. But while Inland may feel complex and overladen, its ambition is part of the point. Despite the piled up details and the shuttling time frames the book, not unlike that camel on the Texas dockside, keeps moving forwards – freighted, intense, but 'rolling steady, like a dream making itself up' as it goes.
This tall tale, like Ms Obreht’s first, conjures a mythical, supernatural world. It bears a resemblance to Days Without End, a magnificent recent Western by Sebastian Barry, an Irish author. Both novels are lush and poetic; both nod to the West’s bloody history, yet hover vaguely, and gorgeously, above it. Inland is most compelling in its study of the pioneer wife whose frustrations and fears lead to tragedy. Yet, disappointingly, it succumbs to a sort of dreamy inevitability about the settlement of the West that will add little to most readers’ grasp of the period. Natives are seen only from the settlers’ point of view; the whole is awash in the slanted light of fable. Ms Obreht has a gift for vivid language and deft stories-within-stories ... The story quickens to its haunting end—if not to any new frontier.
Let us begin at the ending, where I tell you that the final page of this book is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read ... A frontier ghost story, it focuses on the kinds of people who don’t often get to star in tales of the Old West. It’s a funny, weird book, that has often, over the last few weeks, jumped into the front of my brain and demanded attention ... she drops us into a past that is teeming with ghosts, that refuses to allow anyone the comforting lie of A Simpler Time ... One of the novel’s many strengths is the way it subverts tropes to look at people who were often ignored by the mythology of The Old West ... the space Obreht makes for the reality of grief, the way you simply have to move through it, speaks to the pain of waking up in this reality each day. Her insistence on the importance of memory and love make reading the book a healing experience.
Although Nora’s story unfolds over a single day, the novel ranges across time and memory, providing a deep sense of history, known and unknown. Obreht’s extraordinary ability to render both landscape and character has enabled her to construct a work of fiction that is enchanting, surprising, and complicated—as full of woe as it is wonder, and deeply attuned to the connection between the two ... a sweeping canvas of a novel that explodes the clichéd origin stories of the American West ... Leveraging deep truths about the power of heartbreak—in particular, a mother’s grief over a lost child and a man’s grief over his inability to protect his 'funny, noble friend'—Inland offers a brutal vision that extends beyond romanticized depictions of lonely cowboys and rogue outlaws laying claim to lands that never belonged to them.
Inland, her highly anticipated second novel, does not disappoint ... The stunning moment when Lurie and his traveling companion meet Nora is the most brilliant scene in the novel ... The West’s natural inland is a character in both narrative threads, but the novel’s strength rests in the depiction of Nora’s inner landscape ... This dense tapestry of a novel, filled with searchers, discoverers, ghosts, and legends, opens a new window in American fiction ... Inland’s plot includes violence befitting the western, but not the serial atrocities of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian; rather, the novel recalls Don Quixote or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in its breadth and reach. How and why Nora comes face to face with Lurie and Burke will surprise as much as Obreht’s ingenious melding of literary traditions and historical facts.
While each of the two narratives is engaging in its own way, the link between them is tenuous. In fact, that link seems merely coincidence, a bit too cute, and that is a serious flaw. Furthermore, Lurie’s story is a picaresque tale, full of entertaining adventure and displays of imagination, but one without plot. The more compelling story is Nora’s, but it leaves the reader with far more unanswered questions. Although the whole is an entertaining read, ultimately it isn’t fully satisfying.
[A] stunning literary novel by the award-winning author of The Tiger’s Wife ... the beauty of this novel is its lyrical descriptions of the harsh Arizona landscape and the sharp, sarcastic voice of Nora, a flawed but unforgettable character who vividly evokes a life lived suspended between the unrelenting daily demands of survival and the softer memories of lost love.
Though Lurie and Nora's paths never quite cross, both their stories are characterized by similar questions of restlessness and home; of what it means to choose one place, one life, over another ... Both characters are also deeply connected to the surrounding landscape of the American West, which is depicted in Obreht's trademark gorgeous prose ... I have no doubt that, for better or for worse, comparisons between this novel and The Tiger's Wife will abound. However, as a work in its own right, Inland is very fine.
What at first seems like a desolate western landscape turns out to be populated by compelling and complicated characters, as well as uniquely beautiful flora and fauna and majestic vistas ... Inland is a masterful novel, drawing on the grand traditions of the western genre and expressing universal emotions. And yet, Obreht delivers a unique tale full of surprises, elegance and artistry.
Obreht...brings her extraordinarily intricate worldview, psychological and social acuity, descriptive artistry, and shrewd, witty, and zestful storytelling to another provocative inquiry into the mysteries of place, nature, and human complexities. In this audacious tale in sync with those of Rick Bass, Hannah Tinti, and Karen Russell ... As her protagonists’ lives converge, Obreht inventively and scathingly dramatizes the delirium of the West—its myths, hardships, greed, racism, sexism, and violence—in a tornadic novel of stoicism, anguish, and wonder.
...a boldly imaginative story of two characters bound together by their relationships to the dead ... Obreht mixes the fictional with the factual in the same effortless way she mixes the magical with the real, the beast with the human ... Though the novel could have benefited from some streamlining, the final chapter in which the paths of Nora and Lurie finally cross is a brilliant prose poem on the interrelationship between the living and the dead, between memory and loss.
... a most unusual, absorbing tale ... Obreht suspensefully reimagines an extraordinary American West filled with larger-than-life characters, imaginary marauding beasts, and ghosts who commune with the living.
As a whole, the story is told with the kind of magical realism that Obreht was known for in her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife. With wide storytelling but vague focus, the story seems too big at times, even for Obreht herself ... If one is looking for a sophisticated novel with odes to myth and history alike, Inland by Tea Obreht is an enjoyable but complex read. The vivid details of a little known moment in American history transports the reader in a way that both frustrates and mystifies in the best way possible.
The unrelenting harshness of existence in the unsettled American West sharply focuses what Obreht...refers to as 'the uncertain and frightening textures of the world' in this mesmerizing historical novel ... Obreht paints a colorful portrait of the Western landscape, populated by a rogue’s gallery of memorable characters and saturated with spirits of the countless dead who attain a tangible presence, if only through the conversations they conduct in the minds of the characters whom they haunt. The novel’s unforgettable finale, evocative and grimly symbolic, crystallizes its underlying themes of how inconsolable grief and unforgivable betrayal shape the circumstances that bind its characters to their fates. Obreht knocks it out of the park in her second novel.
A frontier tale dazzles with camels and wolves and two characters who never quite meet ... Obreht throws readers into the swift river of her imagination ... deep stoicism, flinty humor, and awe at the natural world pervade these characters. They are both treacherous and good company ... The final, luminous chapter is six pages that will take your breath away.