Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Julie's Review: The Double Bind

Photobucket Summary: Readers will be startled to learn early on that the heroine of this engrossing puzzle, 26-year-old Laurel Estabrook, was born in West Egg. Wait a minute, wasn't West Egg where Jay Gatsby lived? Laurel works in a Burlington, Vt., homeless shelter and is trying to overcome mental and physical scars incurred from a brutal assault some six years earlier. After being given a portfolio of photographs taken by a recently deceased resident of the shelter, Bobbie Crocker, she becomes obsessed with questions surrounding what appears to be a picture of herself shot on the day of her attack. Laurel's already fragile mental state begins to unravel as she follows Bobbie's life from his rich-kid childhood on Long Island to homelessness in Vermont. The Gatsby references form the basis of the mystery, compelling readers to try to imagine how this fictional backdrop relates to the novel's "reality." ~amazon.com

Review: The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries) is by far one of the best books I've read in 2008 and I'll go further to say it's one of the best books I've read in the last 2-3 years. It'll be hard to write an in-depth review of the book because of the twists and turns that occur and I definitely do not want to spoil this book for those of you who have not read it.

The premise is interesting and Chris Bohjalian handles it with great ease and creativity. It is a story set inside a story. The Double Bind encompasses the characters of The Great Gatsby into the life of Laurel Estabrook. Essentially the book is about the secrets we hide and how events that happen to us shape our lives. Laurel was attacked when she was 19 while bicycling in the countryside of Vermont and this changes her choices. She no longer wants to bicycle, so she takes up swimming at the college's pool and this is where she meets Katherine, whom runs BEDS, a homeless shelter. Laurel starts off by volunteering there and after graduation begins to work there full time. Bobbie Crocker, a client of BEDS, dies unexpectedly and leaves photographs behind. Katherine thinks the pictures will be a great fundraiser for the shelter and Laurel offers to head up the project.

Before long the photos begin to take on a life of their own and Laurel takes notice of pictures that go back to the Gatsby Mansion during the 1920s. As she begins to unravel the story of Bobby Crocker we become enthralled in not only his story but in the story of the aftermath of The Great Gatsby. While Laurel is the main character here, I believe we got to know Bobbie Crocker through his photos and other sources. You really feel for a man who had hardship in life because of his mental illness.

Mr. Bohjalian does an excellent job at weaving such important societal issues into his book. The Double Bind focuses on mental illness and homelessness; how the two are often intertwined. He shows great compassion for people in both situations and you can tell he did his due diligence on both subject matters.

My one complaint is that Whit was a bit more involved in the book instead of a background character and I knew what his ultimate connection was to Laurel. I enjoyed getting to know Talia, David and Katherine.

There really is so much more I'd love to discuss but it would spoil major plot points so I won't go there. If you are looking for a wonderful, character driven storyline with lots of twists and turns; The Double Bind is the book you've been waiting for. If you were a fan of My Sister's Keeper: A Novel by Jodi Picoult than this book is right up your alley.

Final Take: 5/5

6 comments :

Holly July 16, 2008 at 7:29 AM  

Wow! Thanks for the great review! You have really made me want to read this book! I'm going to suggest it to my book club the next time we are deciding on books.

Mary July 16, 2008 at 10:30 AM  

I really liked this book. I know a few who were really ticked at the ending, though.

Julie July 16, 2008 at 10:38 AM  

I loved the ending! Soo good! I can see why people might be upset. But it kept me thinking about it for a couple days afterwards.

Amanda July 16, 2008 at 11:10 AM  

Wow! Great review! This book is already on my TBR list but it's move up quite a few notches due to your review. Thanks!

heather (errantdreams) July 18, 2008 at 10:34 AM  

Sounds like a fascinating book---but it sounds like I'd want to re-read Gatsby first (it's been years!).

Julie July 18, 2008 at 11:43 AM  

Heather - I didn't find that I had to have read The Great Gatsby before reading this one. I think it might be better to read it after. :)

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