Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | January 10, 2010

on books and “The Double Bind”

On Goodreads.com there is a group that aims to read 50 books a year. I think at some point there was an article about how Americans didn’t read and someone randomly picked 50 as the magic number to prove that we do. In 2009 I kept track of the books that I read and could not hit 50. My official number was 46 but I didn’t actually finish 3 of them – crappy books are just not worth my time. I started thinking yesterday about the people who not only finish 50 but get closer to, or even pass, 100. I’m jealous. But I also understand that some people don’t have a cute kid and fabulous husband taking up their time and that some books read faster than my “read” list.

My first book for 2010 was one of those quick reads. Not because it was so light (see the Twilight series) but because it was an absolute page turner. I would have probably finished this in three days if I hadn’t gotten caught up in journaling my healthy lifestyle (which I’m sticking to very well so far, I might add).  Anyway, here is my review…

The Double Bind

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Double Bind is a page-turner written by Chris Bohjalian. While Midwives will always be his best in my mind, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

The story tells of Laurel Estabrook who was brutally attacked while riding her bicycle through the back roads of Vermont during her sophomore year of college. The book opens with her memory of the attack and then quickly fast forwards 6 years to the present time of the story. Laurel has completely given up cycling, graduated from college and works at a homeless shelter. She goes from being an outgoing young woman to socially withdrawn. Her life revolves around photography, work and swimming. She lives with her college roommate, Talia, and dates men twice her age. When a homeless man dies and leaves a box of photos that he wouldn’t let anyone see, Laurel gets swept into trying to figure out his story and discovers a deeply hidden secret.

Laurel had grown up on Long Island and because she sees sites she recognizes in some of the photos, namely a pool club that was once Jay Gatsby’s house, she believes that Bobbie Crocker, the homeless man, was really the long lost son of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Her friends think this is rather far fetched, but Laurel is convinced when Pamela Buchanan hires a lawyer to get the photos back.

When I began reading it, I went to wikipedia to understand what a double bind is. They explain it to be “a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one message negating the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. The nature of a double bind is that the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither comment on the conflict, nor resolve it, nor opt out of the situation.” So for the first portion of the book, I had a sense of what the double bind was. At some point, however, they use the definition of double bind that suggested “that double binds could cause an organic brain disorder if imposed on young children or people with unstable or ‘weak’ personalities” and therefore can bring out schizophrenia. Since Bobbie Crocker was a schizophrenic, this brings another level into the story.

This was a highly compelling read. The characters were very realistic and Bohjalian has a way with words that brings a story to life. He interweaves the story of The Great Gatsby in a way that almost makes you want to believe that the characters were real. The ending was an incredible shock and made me want to flip back through the pages and try to see it coming. In terms of a double bind creating schizophrenia, I don’t see it as central to the book and somewhat an unnecessary secondary thread. Bohjalian did, however, approach personality disorders from various sides as a underlying story. All in all, a good read.

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