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Spoiler Alert - The End Game

Can an ending make a book? Téa Obreht’s new Western INLAND is the rare novel with a perfect finish—and if you haven’t experienced it yet, beware: We’re taking a close read of everything through to the last page.

David Canfield
“SHE SAW IT ALL.” THE FOUR WORDS that end Inland, the new novel by Téa Obreht (The Tiger’s Wife), read like the debris from a breathtaking literary explosion. Over its course, the book alternates with mythmaking flair between the entire life of Lurie, a wanted outlaw who adventures around the American West, and a day in the life of Nora, a frontierswoman in the Arizona Territory circa 1893. Their paths converge in Inland’s finale, an abstract masterpiece that distills everything about these two characters into montage—blurring past and future, dead and living, pain and joy. The impetus for it? A horde of ghosts, a blind camel, and a drink of water.

So, spoilers. Rarely, a literary ending comes along that feels too perfect to limit to safe, vague praise. I’m not talking about the wild twists or clever reframings that’ve distinguished some of the year’s buzzier titles (see sidebar). Inland simply parallels two character studies that must, by the laws of good storytelling, intersect. Obreht brilliantly approaches this inevitability by weaving it into the fabric of her haunted setting, where fate can’t help but grab the steering wheel.

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September 2019

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