The Double Bind

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NoveList, a database of fiction authors, titles, book group discussion ideas, and read-alikes, gave me the suggestion to read Chris Bohjalian's novel The Double Bind.  I had just completed Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and wanted to find something similar in psychological thrill and storyline.  The description sounded intriguing enough:  Working at a homeless shelter, student Laurel Estabrook encounters Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of secret photos, but when Bobbie dies suddenly, Laurel embarks on an obsessive search for the truth behind the photos.  Then, when I found the story was an extension of the tragedy of Jay Gatsy, Myrtle and George Wilson, Daisy and Tom Buchanan and their lives, I was unsure.  I love The Great Gatsby so much that I thought any iteration or abandonment of the original dreams and disasters in the story would be an abhoration.

And, often as I read, I kept feeling this way.  It seemed like the author was just trying too hard to force a story of a child of Daisy's who becomes homeless leaving behind a legacy of incriminating photos.  Then, I would read a section which gave insight into the psyche of the homeless or schizophrenic.  Somehow, I kept reading, and by the last three or four pages, I was ready to skim over parts of the book again looking for the clues I might have missed in my earlier distraction.


The Double Bind

Posted by Jennifer Cornell at 01/19/2011 01:38:12 PM | 

Thanks, Jennifer, for your mixed review! The Double Bind was my much anticipated introduction to Chris Bohjalian, and also my brusque farewell. Perhaps the author thought the inventive plot twists and escalating tension would captivate his readers so effectively that they would be awed by the sucker-punch of an ending. In contrast, I felt manipulated and betrayed, having invested time and interest in his well-drawn characters and events only to learn that nothing was as it seemed.
Myla Goldberg did something similar in her book, Bee Season, but her literary rendering of mental instability was handled with much more grace and empathy than Bohjalian's, which I found disingenuous at best.
Mary D.
Posted by: Mary Doud ( Email ) at 2/2/2011 3:49 PM

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