Canadian Harvey's spare, terse and intense novel is about the outside, as in "outside of prison."

The story focuses on the bitter, ruined life of Mr. Myrden (his first name is conspicuously omitted) and begins as Myrden is consumed by a phalanx of reporters as he leaves the prison gates on his first morning of freedom after serving 14 years for a murder he didn't commit. (DNA evidence belatedly cleared him.)

Harvey (The Town That Forgot How to Breathe ) examines the minutiae of how the former inmate deals with being on the outside, where so much has changed: his wife has left him, his children have grown (Myrden is now a grandfather), his friends have changed in unexpected ways, and he reconnects with a long-lost love.

His attorneys arrange a substantial settlement that leaves Myrden and his wife more than $1 million (she's suddenly less estranged when money's involved), but the windfall is anything but a blessing, as Myrden soon discovers.

Harvey's prose is startlingly economical and plain ("One fast action. Release. Noise and flash") and gives the reader immediate access to Myrden's inner conflicted reticence. In the end, it's tough to tell which is crueler: prison or the outside.(Oct.)

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