News from the Tennessee Valley Current

Bohjalian’s latest novel impossible to put down

By Kim Curtis
Associated Press Writer

THE DOUBLE BIND. By Chris Bohjalian. Shaye Areheart, 384 pages, $13.75, hardcover.

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Chris Bohjalian: “The Double Bind” is simply one of the best written, most compelling, artfully woven novels to grace bookshelves in years. Immediately after the spellbinding surprise ending, readers will want to begin again at the first page. It’s THAT good.

The lastest from the best-selling author of “Midwives” tells the painful, yet seemingly straightforward tale of Laurel Estabrook, an appealing and incredibly realistic 30-year-old who was attacked as a college sophomore while riding her bike in the hills of Vermont. While she has just a few close friends, a much older father-figure boyfriend and prefers to stay close to home, she seems to have mostly recovered from her trauma. She refuses to elicit pity from others.

Bohjalian crafts his protagonist so carefully, she’s more than alive — she’s a woman we know or someone we love or even ourselves.

“Because of her history, people either treated Laurel with excessive delicacy when something tragic or sad had happened, or they steamrolled clumsily ahead,” he writes.

She’s competent, respected and well-liked at the homeless shelter where she works. The director is so confident in her skills that she hopes to see Laurel take her place one day.

When a former client, Bobbie Crocker, dies and leaves behind a box of photographs, including artful shots of Martin Luther King, Chuck Berry, Paul Newman and other luminaries, Laurel is tasked with putting together a show of his work, intended to raise money for the shelter.

Instead, she unravels a mystery and a personal connection to the old man that gradually consumes her. And Bohjalian’s breathless pace keeps up.

“They would find her and they would confiscate the photographs. Bobbie’s photographs. Her photographs. They would give them to the woman. And so she understood how little time she had,” he writes.

Bohjalian includes therapist’s notes and photographs taken by the real homeless man who inspired him to write the novel. And, perhaps his most unusual device, fictional characters created by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Great Gatsby” take on real roles in “The Double Bind.”

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