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The Double Bind | Chris Bohjalian

The Double Bind is a novel about a rape survivor who ends up working at a homeless shelter. After one of her short-term residents dies, she is in charge of taking care of his old photographs. The content of the photos leads her to believe that there is a mystery involving her hometown. This leads her on a drastic hunt through the Northeast to solve this puzzle. 

I’ll be honest, this is not a book that I would normally pick up on my own. The only reason why I read it was because it was chosen by my book club. I’ll admit that I usually only read a book because it is recommended to me or because it has a catchy title/cover (I know, I know, that’s exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do). I don’t like to know anything about a book before going into it. I find that even the basic descriptions of books reveal something that you may not know until halfway through the book. The only thing I knew about this book was that it was supposed to be a book that you wouldn’t want to put down, and that it has a big plot twist. I had really high hopes for this book after the first few pages. The prologue was really intense and action packed (the first two lines were: “Laurel Eastbrook was nearly raped the fall of her sophomore year of college. Quite likely she was nearly murdered that autumn.”). The rest of the book was the complete opposite…dry and long-winded. I almost wish that the introduction wasn’t so enticing, because it just raised my expectations and increased my overall disappointment with the book. 

The book is advertised as a literary suspense, but I really didn’t feel any suspense in the book. The overarching “mystery” was only a mystery to the main character, Laurel, but was revealed to the reader in the first chapter. I found it hard to stay focused on the book since the author gave way too much background information on each character with very little actual story development happening. That’s ironic because I didn’t feel any attachment to any of the characters. When a story spends the majority of the time on character development, you would expect to be connected to at least one character, but that wasn’t the case. The only characters that I enjoyed were two little girls that added some innocence and comic relief to an otherwise serious book—but they were only in small snippets of the novel. The chapters also felt VERY long, even though most were less than 15 pages. I think it was because of all of the long descriptions. I can usually sit and read for hours at a time. This was not the case with The Double Bind. I would get bored a few pages into a chapter and half to stop and take a mental break. Halfway through the book I finally started to get a little more drawn in and it was easier to read for longer periods of time. The last hundred pages of the book somewhat made up for the boring middle. It started to pick up pace and I actually got interested in the story. The front of the book advertised that there was a big twist at the end, so I spent most of the book trying to figure out the twist. I guessed it for the most part, but it still had me a little surprised and scratching my head. I am glad that I finished this book since the ending was redeeming. 

I think this is a good book for a book club so you can talk with other people to make sense of what it was that you just read. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone for a pleasurable read. It seemed like too much effort for the amount of gratification I got from reading it. If you do read it, I would recommend reading The Great Gatsby first, since this book draws some parallels to that book. I haven’t read Gatsby, so I am tempted to read it to make sense of some of the plot in The Double Bind. 

Let me know what you think if you have read this book!

* * 2/5 Stars

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