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Arts & Culture : Books Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals
By Mark Abbott
Apr 7, 2015 - 12:25:40 PM

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American-Canadian author, Marilyn Wilson

Life Outside the Box is American-Canadian writer Marilyn R. Wilson's debut book after a decade of writing and editing for magazines and her own blog, "Olio by Marilyn."  In it she turns her mind’s eye onto the personal stories of her subjects, bringing out their inner dialogues to "entertain, inspire and challenge." Wilson is a gifted storyteller and an adept narrator with great insight and wisdom into people’s inner selves.

Life Outside the Box invites you into the lives of 10 unique people:
Julie Salsibury, William Orlowski,  Caroline MacGillivray, Shane Koyczan, Lisa-Marie Mazzucco, Ruthie Davis, Patricia Fieldwalker, Pamela Masik, Geir Ness, and Katherine Soucie.

Although the book profiles these seemingly disparate individuals, they have a lot more in common than at first glance: all share in the proverbial journey from near tragedy to triumph (and succeed). We get to share in the  intimate biographies of fashion designers, a photographer, dancer, visual artist, perfume maker, book publisher enjoying "real stories about real people," as Wilson's tagline says.

Each story is told with enough passion to draw you in, each page revealing. You have to give props to the ten so willing to be so open and vulnerable. Publisher Julie Salisbury talks candidly about the real physical pain and humiliation she endured having fought scoliosis her whole life, requiring a conspicuous back brace. Canadian tap dancer William Orlowski learns he has a rare and debilitating disease, “generalized dystonia” when he’s on top of his game. These are just a few examples of the human conditions Wilson explores – that is – it’s a hard-knocked life; the universe owes us no favours and her subjects are fighting to get back up on the pedestal they are constantly being pushed off of.

These are not small stories but rather microcosms. Wilson uses her strength as a writer to explore each person’s life, taking us from childhood to adult, sparing no detail. Her subjects’ lives could be our own. Wilson wisely never lingers too long on one issue or topic, keeping the narration clipping along at a reasonable pace, carrying the reader forward.

Life Outside the Box is as much about Wilson’s journey from hobby writer to professional scribe, as it is about the personalities she documents. What is a journey if it isn’t about life, the good, the bad, the ugly? As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We process our thoughts and examine paths taken and contemplate our existence and the meaning of life within a vacuum, eventually finding our way. Wilson asserts this notion in the introduction: “I have found my life’s purpose…every time I conduct an interview…I am changed.”

As she demonstrates in her lifestyle writing, Wilson has a unique way of seeing personal and intimate stories where others may see banality, and her work shows a tremendous respect for life’s endless journey.

Life Outside the Box (Influence Publishing, 220 pp, trade paperback) is available on Amazon.

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