Persistent kindness

Book Book Review, Title Inhabited, Author Charlie Quimby, Rating 4.0,


Charlie Quimby

Book Review

Isaac didn’t mind living alone. Loneliness only sank in when he was around people.
(page 34)

Inhabited, Charlie Quimby's follow-up novel to his excellent Monument Road, focuses on life as a homeless person in a small city in western Colorado. This story is both edifying and compelling because he draws sympathetic and realistic characters, not just of those who migrate uncertainly from one temporary abode to another, but of those inhabitants who try to help the homeless and those who oppose such help, which can even be the same person under differing circumstances.

This is a tale of uncertain and often frayed relationships between mentally fragile and wounded people; between them and their families; between them and the rest of the townspeople; between them and the business interests; between them and local government, itself which is pulled by the requirements of public safety, the ongoing development and livability of the town, and the protection of the homeless themselves. Quimby resists the temptation to over-dramatize and probes the difficulties of balancing these various interests.

It felt to me that placing this tale in a small town exposes the various communal struggles with homelessness more acutely than in a large and swirling city. The author is particularly acute in recognizing that many homeless people have serious behavioral issues which makes it difficult for them to cope, or live within an environment structured to assist them; that those who fear the homeless often have some reason to do so; that those who help the homeless don’t always have the purest of motives; and so on.

Quimby loves his environment and his characters, flaws and all. Their story suggests that persistent kindness can still provide some help for those struggling on the street, and that the battle should not be abandoned even though the problems sometimes can seem intractable.

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