A developer’s promise to transform a boom-and-bust Colorado town unsettles an upscale realtor’s perfect life and a river-dweller’s disordered one.
Meg Mogrin sells pricey houses, belongs to the mayor’s inner circle and hopes her hometown can attract a game-changing development. Isaac Samson lives in a tent, abhors disorder and believes Thomas Edison invented the Reagan presidency.
Displaced by the town’s crackdown on vagrancy, Isaac struggles to regain stability, while Meg contends with conflicted roles assisting the developer and serving on the homeless coalition. Then Isaac’s quest to return a lost artifact intrudes into Meg’s tidy world, shaking her sense of security and virtuousness.
This character-rich novel explores the dimensions of loss, the boundaries of compassion and the endurance of love.
"Even his minor figures add significantly to the whole, and his skillful and delightful turns of phrase make reading this evocative novel a pleasure." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Spotlights the complex forces behind the spaces we call home." —Minneapolis StarTribune
"Offers keen insights into human dynamics... an intriguing examination of people and a place in transition." —Kirkus Reviews
"Impressive at every turn... with memorable, believable characters who deal simultaneously with the challenges of reclaiming and redeeming themselves as well as the landscapes that define their communities." —The Utah Review
"Using familiar characters from Monument Road, Quimby casts a novelist's keen eye on a portion of society who live without secure and safe shelter. His compassion and insight make the story irresistible." —Library Journal
"Quimby’s previous novel, Monument Road, [was] praised... for the humaneness and warmth of his writing, and that’s true of Inhabited as well. This is a book that demands a careful read, and the tangled story unfolds slowly. But it’s worth the time." —Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Inhabited is set in western Colorado. Is it a sequel to Monument Road?
I call it a sister novel. “Sequel” implies a continuing story. I’m not writing about ongoing characters or building a saga.
I’m told Kent Haruf did not regard his Holt, Colorado, novels as sequels to Plainsong, though they were called that all the time. Our novels, I think, explore themes and situations that develop in a certain way because of the place in which they occur. The locales and landscapes link the stories, but the writer’s ongoing concerns also connect them.
For me, those concerns include: individuality versus community; the power of systems, from nature to religion and capitalism, to help and to harm; love and family; facing mortality and deciding how to act.
One evident connection with Monument Road is the relationship between Meg Mogrin and her dead sister Helen. Is that where the “sister novel” term comes from?
Yes, in part. A sister is a relation but not a descendant. Things that happen to you continue to resonate, especially if you remain in a place. Your life story doesn’t have to be driven by what we call the past, but a dead sister doesn’t really go away.
Inhabited picks up minor characters from the previous book and gives them bigger lives in a new story. It’s sort of like the big brother goes off to college and the next kid gets his room.
Inhabited presents the tension between a promising new development and the town’s homeless population. Why did you choose that particular conflict?
Because who wins and who’s left behind is a central struggle in our society. Increasingly, morality is being conflated with economics, and on a national basis we’re slipping toward a rather exclusionary and jingoistic notion of community.
I didn’t write Inhabited to be tract on politics and homelessness. I wanted to explore this tension on a more intimate scale that allows the reader to surface, through these varied characters, their own conflicted feelings about love, family and self-worth, where notions of success, goodness and justice collide with mental health, addiction and abuse. To consider where we set our “boundaries of kinship,” as one character calls it.
Being homeless is not who you are. It’s a side effect of forces at work upon you and your capacity to deal with them by yourself.
This is also Meg’s story and about her uneasy relationship with the idea of home: How home is a retreat where we can most be ourselves and where we should be most intimately known by others. But she has an unresolved guilt that prevents her from being truly at home, even with herself. She hopes to expiate it through her involvements with good causes, with the trappings of home, by helping others find the “lifestyle of their dreams.” But it’s not quite working.
Advance Readers Speak
"Charlie Quimby is the sharpest shooter in the West. Inhabited is a dramatic, honest, humane portrait of a Colorado city in the throes of great change and great choice. The characters and the setting are indelibly rendered, and I’ve never read a book that “gets” the contradictions of the region as well as this one. We’re all in the mix here—rich and poor, homeless and over-housed, rancher and eco-activist, native politician and outside scoundrel. Inhabited is a vivid, compelling story delivered with 21st century true grit."
—Alyson Hagy, author of Boleto
"Charlie Quimby is a writer with a big talent, big heart, and big social conscience. In his second novel, Inhabited, characters finely drawn and memorable live amidst the criss-crossing lines of moral conscience, political juggling and economic expediency—a tough neighborhood. I was staggered by the authenticity of these people and their dilemmas."
—Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann and Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse
"Charlie Quimby has written a thoroughly enjoyable novel that masterfully takes the reader on an emotionally rewarding exploration of “home” and the power the concept has on the human psyche. His characters are as richly and finely depicted as his descriptions of the Colorado landscape. On one end of the Inhabited spectrum, a realtor, a dealer in homes, harbors a secret crime that unsettles her soul. On the other, a mentally disordered young man, homeless, searches for his own place in the world to inhabit. Quimby, besides being a superb storyteller, has the keen eye of a social scientist. I loved Inhabited. It transformed my understanding of the homeless in America."
—Jonathan Odell, author of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
"Inhabited turns a typical community 'homeless problem' into a layered drama about our responsibilities to each other and the blunders and scars we must endure. I salute Charlie Quimby for following the path of Steinbeck and Orwell in writing empathetic portraits of the ignored and the shunned."
—Jim Lynch, author of Before the Wind
"As he did in Monument Road, Charlie Quimby has created characters that inhabit your mind even when you're not reading the book! He draws us into his story allowing us to identify so strongly with his characters that we are almost living their lives and the contradictions they present to us... a man who is so, unfortunately, disenfranchised as to be invisible and a well-meaning woman unable to affect the world she wants to live in without serious compromise. This is the disparity and angst that we all suffer from to some degree in the 21st century."
—Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore, Phoenix, AZ
"Charlie Quimby hits the nail on the head with his insightful descriptions of the haves and have-nots. Readers of Monument Road will recognize the evolution of characters and their defining moments. Inhabited wrings empathy out of readers' hearts like nothing else I've encountered recently.
—Margie Wilson, Grand Valley Books, Grand Junction, CO
"As a serious fan of Monument Road, I have been looking forward to more of Charlie Quimby's work. Once again in Inhabited, Charlie's characters are beautifully nuanced, complex, and well developed. Inhabited also offers a startlingly precise insight into the world of the homeless and the challenges of finding suitable housing solutions that honor their choices. Inhabited never patronizes or condescends. It soars as a novel that explores the themes of home, family, and love."
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN
"The plight of the homeless was not something I was particularly interested in and it made me hesitant to read Charlie Quimby's Inhabited. I'm so glad I did. This is a beautifully readable and thought-provoking book.
"Quimby's ability to make us think about the people on the street corner, who they are, who they want to be, is compelling and perspective-changing. From Meg, the high-end real estate saleswoman, to Isaac, the displaced local, and every character in between, Quimby makes us rethink our own feelings, sentiments, prejudices and values. The Western Colorado locale is just a beautiful added bonus.
"Inhabited left me with an intense feeling long after I had finished the book. In fact, I think about it every day. What more can you ask for from a great book?"
—Marya Johnston, Out West Books, Grand Junction, CO