Evan Malloy realizes he died in 1992, but the how and why of his suicide eludes him. Trapped on the property of his home in Seattle, his only companion a ginger tom, Evan watches a progression of residents come and go, until Maureen Keniston moves in during the summer of 2002. Something about this troubled woman causes Evanís memories to slowly return, casting him into the past, reliving the events leading up to his death. Told in series of flashbacks interspersed with the story of Maureenís increasingly desperate attempts to leave her married lover, The Inhabited World explores the nature of relationships, fidelity and self-acceptance.
David Long has paced his novel in a deliberate manner. The passages revealing Evanís reflections are long and drawn out, as days must appear to a ghost. Interspersed are short moments in the present through which the reader gradually learns of Maureenís turbulent relationship with Ned, her lover and former co-worker. The scenes of Maureenís life serve to propel the narrative forward as each one moves Evan deeper into reflection, slowly leading to acceptance of his history. Languid scenes at the beginning, which feel infused with golden light and naÔvetť, shift incrementally to become the claustrophobic darkness which binds both Evan and Maureen.
Longís ability to evoke volumes with the sparseness of his prose illustrates mastery of his craft. The choice to place all dialogue in italics, rather than quotation marks, is initially a distracting one, causing the reader to wonder if the italics signify a different narrator or voice. Soon, however, the italics help evoke the dissociative state in which Evan must exist, creating the languor that permeates this deceptively simple novel.
The Inhabited World is not the typical novel usually considered when discussing literature; however, it is an important work that compels readers to look beyond the words on the page and consider what message Long wishes to leave behind. Long has fashioned a remarkable work for those willing to enter his world.
David Long is the author of two previous novels and several collections of short stories. His fiction has appeared in many publications such as The New Yorker, earning him many honors including an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize. The Inhabited World is his third novel.