It’s not often you find a novel that tells you everything you need to know in the title, but Jeremy P. Bushnell‘s The Insides is one such book. Bushnell’s magical realist tale about a special knife, a psychic for hire, and a street magician turned butcher is all about the interior: of our world, of buildings, of animals, of our lives. Though its title might suggest otherwise, however, The Insides gives up only as much of Bushnell’s world-building as is necessary to tell its story. Everything deeper remains a mystery.
In The Insides, Bushnell weaves together two stories, winding tighter and tighter until the novel’s dramatic conclusion. His decision to alternate chapters between Ollie and Maja invokes a sense of urgency in the reader. You have to keep going, because you have to know what happened after the last chapter ended, and you have to know what will happen to the characters you’re about to leave behind.
Ollie is a butcher working in an inventive New York City restaurant. She maintains a civil rivalry with her co-worker, Guychardson, whose awkward skill with his blade produces results she cannot best. Before this, Ollie was a wife a mother, living on a large, eco-friendly farm. Before that, she was a street punk, adopted by a group of magicians.
Maja is a psychic who locates lost things, for a price. To hash out the weirdness that permeates her job, she talks to the Archive: a personable voice in her head. Maja’s current mission is to locate a special knife for two men, the younger of whom accompanies her, armed only with stolen guns, a strange pig mask, and an unsettling appetite for candy.
Needless to say, Ollie and Maja’s stories converge on Guychardson’s knife. How Bushnell gets there is where — pardon the pun — the magic happens. Although The Insides leaves readers with far more questions than it answers, it sometimes oversteps the bounds of willing suspension of disbelief when attempting to explain away its phenomena. That fault aside, The Insides is a brilliant sophomore offering, and its quirks should not be missed.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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