Outside the Lines

Fiction - Literary
354 Pages
Reviewed on 05/31/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Bernadette Longu for Readers' Favorite

In Outside the Lines, Mary Perrine covers a subject that we all hope will not happen to us. She writes a most wonderful, moving story that will grip the reader's attention from the prologue to the very last page. Mary uses her main characters Bella and Tilly well. Each one plays an important part in the journey that both have to take as they near the end. Each one is fighting their own demons and facing an uncertain future of what will happen as they near the end of their path. The unexpected twist will leave the reader realizing that every day one has in this world is a bonus day, especially when fighting a terminal illness. This book will linger in your memory and will appear in your thoughts when life gets tough and you have challenges to face that you would rather bury and pretend are not real.

Readers will find that once they start reading, there is no stopping as the characters lead them through their lives with laughter, sorrow, tears, wisdom, and dignity. It will give readers strength and inspiration to face whatever situation awaits them in the future or even in the present. I really enjoyed reading Outside the Lines as it helped me accept the situation I find myself in with my sister who is so far away, and who I am not sure how much longer will be with us. Each day is a bonus day and I try to make the most of it. Thank you, Mary Perrine, for taking a sensitive subject that makes everyone nervous, unsure of what to say and do, and making it more understandable and accepting of the decisions of the person taking the journey. This is a book well worth more than one read. An inspirational and heart-warming story.

Nino Lobiladze

Outside the Lines by Mary Perrine is a meaningful read for fans of literary fiction, drama, and novels centered around women. Twenty-three-year-old Bella Levitsky has breast cancer. On her birthday, Bella learns that she has up to one year to live. Attempting to run from her past, Bella buys a bus ticket from New York to Miami, with many stops along the way. Enchanted by the ocean, she decides to stay in Lawson Beach, South Carolina. A waitress named Maggie helps Bella find a place to live at Tilly Wilson's boarding house. After a difficult first meeting, Tilly finds out about Bella's cancer and intends to help her live the last year of her life to its fullest. But the daughter of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Bella is still very young, while the almost ninety-year-old African American, Tilly, remembers the Great Depression. Will two opposites find common ground?

In Outside the Lines, Mary Perrine explores the dynamics between two main characters, Bella and Tilly. Mary skillfully describes the conflict of generations and two different points of view on life, death, and faith in God. The contrast between their perceptions of these concepts, as well as Bella's and Tilly's attempts to understand each other, is the driving force of the narrative. While touching on hard topics, Outside the Lines is an enthralling read. Tilly and Bella's interactions are often humorous, and their rivalry takes comical forms. Mary creates and develops extraordinary characters. An exemplary Christian, Tilly is wise and street-smart. Once emotionally distant, Bella learns how to become more compassionate and caring. Even the unpleasant Jasmine, Tilly's estranged daughter, has an interesting implicit dimension. Fast-paced and eloquently written, Outside the Lines has an unexpected ending and offers intellectual nourishment to those not afraid to meditate on deep questions.

Asher Syed

In Outside the Lines by Mary Perrine, two characters who could not be more different end up in the same house, each with their own lives behind them, although one has significantly more time to acquire good memories than the other. Bella, at twenty, isn't old enough to have been through all the hardship she's experienced. She's given an additional blow that she has cancer, is dying, and has one year left to live. She's already understandably bitter, and that doesn't change when she is standing at the door of a South Carolina boarding house. Tilly's house. Tilly is almost 90 years old and has other plans for her youthful boarder, not only giving her a place to live out her final months but, whether Bella likes it or not, also surrounding her with friends, wisdom, and all the experiences that Bella would otherwise miss.

Outside the Lines by Mary Perrine is, like Tilly is to Bella, the balm my soul needed over the weekend. It is definitely literary fiction, but don't be fooled into thinking it's women's fiction. I am a grown man and this was my wife's book, but out of boredom, I picked it up and never put it down. As a person of color, I am drawn to sassy old women who tell it like it is, and Tilly is just that. She's everyone's grandmother, and Bella is heartbreakingly in need of her. Perrine does such a good job of balancing intelligent wit with the severity of Bella's situation. Tilly is also in the sunset of her life, but it's not as depressing, given that she's an octogenarian. The writing is exceptional and Perrine intentionally takes her time in making sure we absorb the story. This is one of those books that I can see myself going back to read, and, considering the length of my current to-be-read list, that says a lot. Very highly recommended.