The Double Bind Paperback – 6 Oct 2008
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Laurel Estabrook, a young social worker living in Vermont, becomes obsessed with a box of photographs that belonged to a deceased homeless man, Bobbie Crocker. An amateur photographer herself, Laurel wonders how someone as destitute as Crocker came to possess such high-quality photos, many of them featuring famous people and, bizarrely, Laurel's childhood town. As she devotes more and more time to researching Crocker's past, her friends and family become concerned for her mental well-being. Six years previously, Laurel was attacked by two men in the woods while riding her bike, and though she recovered enough to finish college and get a job, she remains fragile. Bohjalian, whose Midwives was an Oprah Book Club selection, adds original and creative elements to this tale by blending the story of The Great Gatsby with Laurel's story and including photographs by a real-life homeless man named Bob Campbell. Far from being simply a mystery story, this is a complex exploration of the human psyche and its efforts to heal and survive in whatever manner possible. Recommended for all fiction collections.
-"Library Journal," Starred Review
"Psychological thriller, crime novel and "what-if" sequel to The Great Gatsby--with significant twists. Schizophrenic, yes, and alcoholic--but Bobbie Crocker isn't your stereotypical street person. Bohjalian (Before You Know Kindness, 2004, etc.) invests him with mystery; when he dies in Burlington, Vt., he leaves behind photographs from 1960s issues of Life magazine. Eartha Kitt, Dick Van Dyke, Muddy Waters--they're celebrity shots he took, combined with elegant evocations of Jazz Age Long Island. Laurel Estabrook, social worker at Crocker's shelter, discovers something else among them: a snapshot of herself riding a bike, just as she had, seven years before, when savaged by two thugs. The attack scarring her, she'd retreated into PTSD therapy, affairs with comforting, if noncommittal, father figures and a life less of ambition than service. Crocker's photos provide Laurel clues to their strangely interconnected pasts--and she sets out to decode them. Had the homeless man actually been to the manor born, son of Tom and Daisy Buchanan of fabled West Egg? His sister denies it, having spent most of her 70 years trying to whitewash her parents'reputation--Tom's brutality and Daisy's suspicious involvement in the car crash that killed one of his lovers. Had those wealthy, morally bankrupt parents caused Bobbie's "double bind," provoking schizophrenia by instilling in an unwanted child love/hate mixed messages? Or could Bobbie's father be someone yet more notorious, the darkly glamorous star of Fitzgerald's masterpiece? And why was Laurel's own likeness found in Crocker's cache? Sleuthing obsessively, she discovers that Bobbie had a son himself, a boy who grew up to terrify his father. And terrify her. Conflating literary lore, photographic analysis and meditations on homelessness and mental illness, Bohjalian produces his best and most complex fiction yet. Ultra-clever, and moving, too.
- "Kirkus," Starred Review
"The Double Bind races toward a conclusion that boasts a shocking twist. . .This elegantly crafted tale is well worth delving into."
""Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind is simply one of the best written, most compelling, artfully woven novels to grace bookshelves in years." --AP review
"Bohjalianis a master of literary suspense."
-"Washington Post Book World"
"Critics are giving Bohjalian...high marks for The Double Bind." -"USA Today"
"[An] imaginatively crafted novel." -"Newsweek"
"Great fiction...un-put-downable." -"People"
"This is top-notch Bohjalian fiction." -"Entertainment Weekly"
"A page-turner with a wicked twist at the end." -"LIFE "
"[An] artfully crafted, terrifying new novel.... Bohjalian has written a literary thriller." --"LA Times "
"Truth may be stranger than fiction, but this book makes the case that truth is also more valuable as a source of inspiration." -Daily News
"A literate thriller about homelessness, random brutality and an obsession with characters from Fitzgerald's 'Great Gatsby.'" -"-New York Post
""[Bohjalian writes] the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish, and The Double Bind exerts that same hypnotic tug." --"Washington Post Book World"
"Clearly the most viscerally exciting of Bohjalian's normally cerebral books." -"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "
"This psychological thriller...offers a chilling depiction of the ways we choose to remember as well as what we forget." -"Daily News"
"An intriguing mix of fact and fiction. . .powerful. . .a shocker" --"The Courant"
"Bohjalian fills The Double Bind with gripping twists and turns." -"Redbook"
"Part mystery and part psychological exploration...will certainly be interesting book-group fodder." -"The Denver Post"
"Part psychological mystery and part literary puzzle." -"The Record" (Bergen County, NJ)
"The suspense takes a twist at the end, which flips the story upside down." - "Vermont Today"
"From the Hardcover edition."
"Bohjalian is a master of literary suspense. . . . [His] are the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish." --The Washington Post Book World"Artfully constructed and fiercely felt. . . . Bohjalian is . . . rearranging our previous assumptions, producing the sense of shock we felt viewing The Sixth Sense." --The Miami Herald"Terrifying. . . . Laurel is an unforgettable, vulnerable, complicated character." --The Los Angeles Times"The Double Bind is simply one of the best written, most compelling, artfully woven novels to grace bookshelves in years. Immediately after the spellbinding surprise ending, readers will want to begin again. . . . It's THAT good." --The Associated Press"The sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless." --Jodi Picoult"Harrowing.... The Double Bind has a powerful statement to make about the nature of obsession and mental illness, as well as the lingering effects of psychological trauma.... A stunner." --The St. Petersburg Times"Great fiction... un-put-down-able." --People "Ingenious.... He's compassionate about mental illness, wise about the healing power of art. He moves easily and convincingly back and forth from different points of view and manages to create authentic voices." --The Boston Globe"A psychological thriller . . . a chilling depiction of the ways we choose to remember as well as what we forget." --New York Daily News"A page-turner with a wicked twist at the end." ---Life Magazine
-Bohjalian is a master of literary suspense. . . . [His] are the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish.- --The Washington Post Book World-Artfully constructed and fiercely felt. . . . Bohjalian is . . . rearranging our previous assumptions, producing the sense of shock we felt viewing The Sixth Sense.- --The Miami Herald-Terrifying. . . . Laurel is an unforgettable, vulnerable, complicated character.- --The Los Angeles Times-The Double Bind is simply one of the best written, most compelling, artfully woven novels to grace bookshelves in years. Immediately after the spellbinding surprise ending, readers will want to begin again. . . . It's THAT good.- --The Associated Press-The sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless.- --Jodi Picoult-Harrowing.... The Double Bind has a powerful statement to make about the nature of obsession and mental illness, as well as the lingering effects of psychological trauma.... A stunner.- --The St. Petersburg Times-Great fiction... un-put-down-able.- --People -Ingenious.... He's compassionate about mental illness, wise about the healing power of art. He moves easily and convincingly back and forth from different points of view and manages to create authentic voices.- --The Boston Globe-A psychological thriller . . . a chilling depiction of the ways we choose to remember as well as what we forget.- --New York Daily News-A page-turner with a wicked twist at the end.- ---Life Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of 11 novels, including Skeletons at the Feast and his most recent New York Times bestseller, The Double Bind, published by Pocket Books. His work has been translated into eighteen languages and published in twenty-one countries. He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.
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The device of weaving classic fictional characters into a modern-day psychological thriller is now introduced into the story. Amongst the photographs are ones which Laurel recognises as being of Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg and the Buchanan estate in East Egg which at this point I found to be a difficult notion. Pragmatically I was reading the novel on one level as a piece of fiction and then the author introduces another set of well-known fictional characters which the reader is supposed to believe are living breathing characters in their own right. If you have not read the Great Gatsby recently it is a good idea to find out the story line as this will enhance your enjoyment of The Double Bind.
However I kept on reading and Chris Bohjalian manages to keep the pace and interest of the reader using this fictional deceit - and as Laurel's obsession with the photographer drags her even deeper into his troubled life her mental state starts to suffer dramatically. The author's ability to confuse reality and delusion is extremely well written and although the clues are there the end is a classic for a psychodrama.
The personal disenchantment which I mentioned earlier is down to the fact that having finished the book I cannot decide myself what and who were real and what and who delusional. Formulated in the 1950s to create a theory about schizophrenia, double bind theory is about relationships and what happens when important basic relationships are chronically subjected to invalidation through paradoxical communication which is the basic tenet of this book.
The main part of the book I found quite intriguing as the mystery behind the photographs is gradually revealed although there is one idiosyncracy in the writing - referring to a character not as 'she' but 'the woman' - which I found grating and irritating. But if I could overlook that I felt the rest was well written.
But - and it's a huge 'but' unfortunately - the last two pages of the book, which of course I can't divulge, completely ruined the story for me. What should have been a truly dramatic and unexpected ending left me utterly frustrated because so much of what had gone before simply couldn't have happened if this was the truth behind the story.
The relationship between reader and writer has to be based on trust, trust that the author will play fair with the reader. A story told in the first person, for instance, cannot lead to his turning out in the last pages to be the murderer because we feel utterly cheated, he has lied to us throughout the book. A shock ending is one thing but one that then makes a mockery of all that's gone before, leaving gaping plot holes in its wake, is simply not acceptable. It's a pity because the story, as I said, is most unusual and should have been much better than it was.
I just read this as part of my reading group and I'm expecting a lively discussion over the author's techniques and cleverness.
From the off I was gobsmacked at how the author surprised me and kept me guessing.
I haven't decided yet whether the final chapter was one bit of cleverness too far. Brilliant but I can't decide if I feel stupid or not. First time i've felt that on reading a book.
It's certainly a gripping read though and I'll be looking for his othe books.
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