The Double Bind-Chris Bohjalian
When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her. In a tale that travels between the Roaring Twenties and the twenty-first century, between Jay Gatsby’s Long Island and rural New England.
This is a multi-layered novel. There’s the pictures aspect and I loved that Bohjalian included the photos he was inspired by (the true story of a former professional photographer that ended up leaving a box of photos in his final homeless shelter). The amount of literary devices Bohjalian skillfully deploys creates what ends up being quite a post-modern crime novel.
The prologue grabs you with its tone of suppressed and subtle violence that immediately establishes your sympathies with Laurel. That means you spend the novel in her head and not minding. It’s totally understandable that she wants to solve the mystery of the photos. The photos, not the real ones in the book itself but the literary ones have a connection to her own childhood spent swimming in the bay across from Gatsby’s mansion.
Some of the minor characters were underdeveloped and at the end there’s no explanation for their presence in the novel. The twist likewise is potentially not a real twist depending on how you sink into the novel. I got stuck, stuck in deep and so it did end up being a really clever, put-a-smile-on-my-face twist that made it all more than worth the read. It would’ve have been without the twist but the final part really made it a book that stood out.