The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am a huge Bohjalian fan. I loved Midwives, Trans Sistor Radio, Before You Know Kindness, The Buffalo Soldier, and Water Witches. He's also one of the most engaging and dynamic authors I have ever met in person (at a book reading in Portland, OR). Because of this, I always have high expectations for his novels.
I was engaged in the story of The Double Bind--I thought about the book when I was not reading it, which is always a good sign. At times, the plot dragged a bit, as other readers have mentioned, but as usual with Bohjalian's books, it was well written and interesting. I was surprised to read such scathing reviews about the book.
I knew there was a plot twist, but I did not deduce what it was going to be until I came upon it. (I'm that way with mysteries, too--just try to enjoy the story and not think ahead to what might happen--I prefer to be surprised.)
I also found it interesting to note some parallels with a nonfiction book I read recently, Strange Piece of Paradise, the real-life story of a female biker who was brutally attacked and years later, tries to unravel the mystery and unleash her own anxieties about the incident.
As soon as I finished the novel, I felt like I should go through and reread it in light of the ending revelation...but instead, I was eager to move onto a different book. That's partly a reflection of my preferences (I rarely reread books unless there is a several-year lapse) as well as my inability to engage very fully with the characters. (I did go back and scan through some key sections of the book, though, in light of the revelation.)
The Double Bind also brings the tragedy of the homeless and the mentally ill to the light of day, and also sensitively portrays the collateral damage done to women who are sexually assualted and violated.
Bohjalian is a talented writer, and the books of his I enjoy the most are the ones where you can really get inside of the characters' souls. Because of the nature of the plot (and the manipulation of the reader's mind, which is skillfully done, fully engaging with the characters was more difficult with the Double Bind. I think this book will stick with me for days or months, though...it affected me profoundly.
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