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The Double Bind: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian

The Double Bind: A Novel (edition 2007)

by Chris Bohjalian

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2,3991623,903 (3.66)115
Title:The Double Bind: A Novel
Authors:Chris Bohjalian
Info:Shaye Areheart Books (2007), Hardcover
Collections:Your library

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The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian


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A young woman who works in a homeless shelter becomes obsessed with photographs left by a deceased client.

Bohjalian sets up the plot as if he were preparing a table for a formal dinner and then pulls the tablecloth out from under the reader in an absolutely mind-bending conclusion. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Dec 14, 2018 |
I see that a lot of people did not like this book. I liked it because the author played with my head, and he did it well! The first chapter grabbed me, and the last chapter through me for a loop, and I was okay with that! I do think it could have been done with more finesse, and some story lines had me scratching my head, but he tossed the reader deeply into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness (or whatever!). The person who recommended this to our book club works with the homeless and mentally ill, and she felt this book was not "out of the realm" of reality.

It is not a brilliant work of writing, but it made a great read on some dull late-Fall days! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I just stumbled across this book and decided to give it a shot because I typically like "psychological thrillers" on film and decided I might like to read on. Wow. A.Maze.Ing. By far one of the most engagingly complex novels I've read in a while. The author's descriptive detail and "back story" asides were usually enriching rather than distracting, and he very successfully creates characters that come to life in the mind's eye.

I just came off of reading Juliette, which was very engaging...and The Double Bind was even more difficult to put down! I am thrilled to discover there are still writers out there telling original stories with well-crafted prose. Can't wait to find another Bohjalian book. ( )
  Kim_Sasso | Mar 14, 2018 |
I loved the concept of bringing to life the characters from The Great Gatsby but something did not feel right about this book and it took me several weeks to finish with reading Catcher in the Rye Again after viewing the Rebel in the Rye. When the book came to it's clever conclusion you had been given enough clues thru out the final chapters to realize why the protagonist was "off". Really enjoy this author and have another book of his in pile to read. ( )
1 vote Alphawoman | Oct 4, 2017 |
Found this book at the local thrift store. A buck well spent. THE DOUBLE BIND takes its title from social scientist -

"Gregory Bateson's theory that a particular brand of bad parenting could inadvertently spawn schizophrenia. Essentially, it meant consistently offering a child a series of contradictory messages: telling him you loved him while turning away in disgust ... [until] a child would realize that he couldn't possibly win in the real world, and as a coping mechanism would develop an unreal world of his own."

Because this is very much a story about mental illness, schizophrenia in particular. It also deals with the long-lasting effects of sexual assault, and how it can ruin a life. I find it an interesting coincidence that I am also currently sampling a non-fiction book by David J. Morris called THE EVIL HOURS: A BIOGRAPHY OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. And yes, sexual assault and rape can result in PTSD.

Bohjalian seems to employ an interesting literary conceit throughout his story, namely that THE GREAT GATSBY was not a novel. Indeed, you are invited to believe that Jay Gatsby, the Buchanans and other characters from Fitzgerald's famous novel were real people, that it was a true story.
I found it particularly off-putting, annoying even, until I learned why he was doing it. In fact, I nearly quit reading the book, finding it just a bit tedious and reaching too far into the realm of fantasy for my taste. But I stuck with it, and am glad I did. Because Bohjalian's central character, Lauren Estabrook, was a pretty fascinating one: a social worker at a homeless shelter in Burlington, Vermont, who had been brutally assaulted several years before. She is described as "fragile." Other characters are equally interesting - her roommate, her much older lover (the latest of several older men). No question, Bohjalian knows how to create compelling characters. But for me, the first half of the book - nearly 200 pages - seemed to drag. But then the pace picked up exponentially and I could not turn pages fast enough, as Lauren desperately tried to unravel the secrets of a portfolio of old photos left behind by an old man who had once been a client at the homeless shelter, to know how he may have been connected to the Buchanans of THE GREAT GATSBY.

To say more would be too close to spoiling the book. But it's a good one, trust me. And, upon finishing this book, you might be motivated to dust off your old college copy of GATSBY and try it again. Couldn't hurt. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Jul 11, 2017 |
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Chris Bohjalianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Denaker, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Oh, I know who Pauline Kael is," he said. "I wasn't born homeless, you know."
Nick Hornby- A Long Way Down
For Rose Mary Muench and in memory of Frederick Meunch (1929-2004)
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Laurel Estabrook was nearly raped the fall of her sophomore year of college.
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Book description
After surviving an attack while biking, Vermont college student Laurel Estabrook decides to volunteer at a homeless shelter where she meets Bobbie Cocker, a mentally ill man who claims to have been an established photographer and whose life she becomes infatuated with.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0739341324, Audio CD)

Best known for the provocative and powerful novel, Midwives (an Oprah Book Club® Selection), Chris Bohjalian writes beautiful and riveting fiction featuring what the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed "ordinary people in heartbreaking circumstances behaving with grace and dignity." In his new novel, The Double Bind, a literary thriller with references to (and including characters from) The Great Gatsby, Bohjalian takes readers on a haunting journey through one woman's obsession with uncovering a dark secret. We think Bohjalian fans will be thrilled with this compelling and unforgettable read, but just to be sure, we asked bestselling author Jodi Picoult to read The Double Bind and give us her take. Check out her review below. --Daphne Durham

Guest Reviewer: Jodi Picoult

From the provocative and gut-wrenching The Pact, to the brilliant genre-bending The Tenth Circle, to her latest novel about a high school shooting Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult's riveting novels center on family and relationships, and bring to light questions and issues that remain with a reader long after the last page is turned.

I once heard a fellow novelist call writing "successful schizophrenia"--we invent people and worlds that don't exist; but instead of being medicated, we are paid for it. Although countless novels succeed in whisking the reader away on the heels of such fabrications, there are very few that pull the curtain away from the craft, allowing us inside the mind of a working novelist as he combines reality and fantasy. Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind is not just one of these; it's the finest example I've ever read of a book that tips its hat to both the beauty of the literary creation, as well as the magical act of creating.

Fact and fiction become indistinguishable in The Double Bind: The story centers on Laurel Estabrook, a young social worker and survivor of a near-rape, who stumbles across photographs taken by a formerly homeless client and tries to understand how a man who'd taken snapshots of celebrities in the 50s and 60s might have wound up on the streets. However, an author's note tells us that Bohjalian conceived this book after being shown a batch of old photographs taken by a once-homeless man; and the actual photos of Bob "Soupy" Campbell are peppered throughout the text. In another neat twist, Bohjalian's resurrects details from The Great Gatsby, which become "real" in the context of his own novel--Laurel lives in West Egg; part of her hunt for her photographer's past involves meeting with the descendants of Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

As a writer who counts The Great Gatsby as one of the books that changed her life, this inclusion was both startling and remarkable for me. Who doesn't want one's favorite characters to come to life--even if it's only within the constraints of another fictional work? But Bohjalian chose his text wisely: no discussion of The Great Gatsby is complete without alluding to missed opportunities and unreliable sources--critical elements in Laurel's quest. And therein lies Bohjalian's true double bind: all stories--even the ones we tell ourselves--are subject to our own interpretation, and to the degree we can make others believe them.

The Double Bind may flirt with the classics, but it's not your father's stuffy old tome: it's the sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless. It also, worthily, spotlights the cause of homelessness in a way that isn't preachy, but honest and explanatory. Ultimately, what Bohjalian's done is offer his lucky readers another reminder of why he's such an extraordinary author: by creating characters that become so real we lose the distinction between truth and embellishment; by reminding us that the story of any life--whether fictional, functional, or marginal--is one to be savored. --Jodi Picoult

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Working at a homeless shelter, 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.

(summary from another edition)

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