three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The Double BindIn this psychological thriller, college-age Laurel Estabrook survives a brutal attack by two men during a lone bicycle ride in the woods near her home. She deals with the trauma by concentrating on her photography and, years later, on her career as a social worker. At the Vermont homeless shelter where she works, she comes across a box of photographs taken by a deceased resident, who may or may not be a descendant of the Buchanan family of Great Gatsby fame. The photos seem to link the dead photographer to Laurel’s earlier attack and her hometown of West Egg, where Jay Gatsby lived. Laurel must unravel the mystery of the photographer’s identity and his connection to the incident while tending to her own psychological scars.
Shaye Areheart. 368 pages. $25. ISBN: 1400047463

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"The plot is based on a misstatement early on. So it’s hard not to feel a little used at the book’s denouement. Was it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. Bohjalian couldn’t have done it any other way." Curt Schleier

Denver Post 3 of 5 Stars
"The story’s climax includes a twist that will lead to one of two mutually exclusive reactions: The reader will either go back to the beginning of the book to re-examine the trail of clues, or simply throw the book against the wall and pick up the next book in the to-be-read stack." Robin Vidimos

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"This is top-notch Bohjalian fiction until the final chapter, which is gutted by a cheap trick." Tina Jordan

Hartford Courant 3 of 5 Stars
"[Readers] may be annoyed by a narrator whose unreliability is masked for too long. In the end, trying to grasp this slippery story may leave readers—and reviewers—in a bit of a bind." Carole Goldberg

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Bohjalian has dropped a veil between fiction and reality—the two seem to merge in this novel in disturbing ways—and he does not lift that veil until the story’s final pages. … Some readers may reach the end and feel blindsided rather than enlightened, but The Double Bind describes just how circuitous that inescapable journey can be." Carrie Brown

Philadelphia Inquirer 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Bohjalian structures a crucial plot point around the descendants of the Buchanan family, and the resulting plot twists not only add a pointless dimension to the classic work but plunge The Double Bind into awkward fan-fiction territory." Sarah Weinman

Critical Summary

Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives was an Oprah pick in 1998, and now his 11th novel, The Double Bind, has been designated a February BookSense Pick. While critics praise the novel’s suspense and complexity, most take issue with the surprise ending that depends on arguably inadequate foreshadowing and the belated disclosure of the narrator’s unreliability. Some reviewers commend The Great Gatsby connection, while others, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, contend that the inclusion seems superfluous and contrived. Though most critics appreciate the psychological insights and cultural questions the novel raises regarding mental illness and homelessness, ultimately, many feel manipulated by the novel’s questionable narrative devices.

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