Review: The Double Bind

It isn’t every day that a book throws a Hoarder for a loop.

You’d think that I would see the twist coming.

You’d think that after reviewing so many books, the outcome of this novel would have been predicted.

My mistake, however, was in underestimating Mr. Bohjalian’s talent for yet another well crafted dénouement.

The Double Bind grabs the reader from the start with the horrific attack of Laurel Estabrook, who is targeted by two men while she’s riding her bicycle on the back roads of Vermont.  Understandably, the attack leaves Laurel dramatically changed, and withdrawn.  After her recuperation, she commits herself to a job at a homeless shelter, and occupies herself with her photography hobby.  Her quiet persona consistently reminds those around her of her attack, and they treat her with careful kindness and great empathy.

It’s Laurel’s friendship with Bobbie Crocker, a man who winds up at the homeless shelter, that brings about a new fascination for her.  When Bobbie passes away, he leaves behind a history of mental illness, and a box of photographs (which he would not permit anyone to see).  Laurel suddenly finds herself the keeper of these photographs, and what starts as an interest in Bobbie’s past photography career soon becomes an obsession.  Laurel becomes convinced that Bobbie’s photographs are a map to a dark family secret.  The novel then travels between present day and the Roaring Twenties.  More specifically, the reader begins to move back and forth between Laurel’s quest for Bobbie’s past, and the world of the photographs, which include Jay Gatsby’s Long Island.

I wish that I had had my High School copy of The Great Gatsby for reference a number of times, as I was reintroduced to Tom and Daisy Buchanan, their daughter Pamela, and the renowned Gatsby.  Recalling the finer details of this famous novel would have shed even more light on the links that Laurel made via the photographs, and the heritage that she believed Bobbie to have.  Her conviction that Bobbie’s roots were linked to the Buchanans leads her on a sleuth’s mission, and she stops at nothing to bring the truth to light.

I have to confess that I had moments during this book where I could not figure out how the plot could be resolved.  For the bulk of the story, I had 4 stars in mind for my review.  Then, the book came to its close, and reminiscent to Bohjalian’s Midwives, I was left with a total double take.  He got me again.

Writing more would tip the story’s hat, and you’ll not find any spoilers in this review.  All I can say is thank you to Mr. Bohjalian, for another cleverly written surprise.  5 stars from this Hoarder, and great expectations for his newest book The Sandcastle Girls!