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The Law of Similars Paperback – March 14, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

In Chris Bohjalian's fine follow-up to Midwives, individual judgment and the unconventional again clash with the medical and legal forces of tradition. In rural Vermont, two years after his wife's sudden death, an exhausted state's attorney can hope for little but a quiet life with his 4-year-old daughter. Leland Fowler's only goal is a cure for the common cold--his own, that is, which has dragged on for months. As it turns out, his appointment with the town's only homeopath will set to rights his physical and emotional symptoms. At least for a while.

Alas, another of Carissa Lake's patients isn't quite so lucky. Despite her warning that Richard Emmons not go off his prescription drugs, he does exactly that. In fact, during an asthma attack, he takes the homeopathic law of similars--the belief that "like cures like"--to an entirely new level. This tragedy embroils Carissa in an investigation of her practice and forces Leland into a decision that is to alter not only her life but his:

Upstairs, my daughter slept. And for a long time we sat on the floor before the tree, neither of us saying a word, as I worked out in my mind exactly what I would have needed to prosecute this case if a summer cold had not lasted into the fall, and I had not met Carissa Lake. Once I knew, nothing seemed quite so hopeless, and I began to sketch aloud for her exactly what we would want to create in the morning, and exactly what we would want to destroy.
Chris Bohjalian is an artist of the small but seismic instant. As this gripping novel proves, he knows all too well the awful daring of a moment's surrender. --Siobhan Carson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

As he proved in last year's Midwives, Bohjalian is adept at examining social and moral issues fraught with ambiguities. Here, again, he focuses on a fallible protagonist whose lapse in ethical judgment is motivated by love and need. Widower Leland Fowler, the chief deputy state's attorney in Burlington, Vt., has been lonely since his wife was killed in an accident two years previously, leaving him to raise his daughter Abby, now four. When traditional methods fail to cure a persistent sore throat caused by stress, he consults homeopath Carissa Lake, receives a remedy that works on the principle of "like cures like" (i.e., using the cause of the illness as the cure)Aand falls desperately in love with Carissa. When another of Carissa's patients misinterprets the law of similars and falls into an allergy-induced coma, Leland realizes that Carissa may be accused of malpractice. Abandoning his judgment and his rectitude, Leland instructs Carissa in fabricating and destroying evidenceAthis while his own office may seek to prosecute her. The consequences are, of course, ineffably sad. Despite his tendency to use foreshadowing with the bluntness of hammer blows, Bohjalian succeeds in escalating tension and communicating the irony of Leland's position. The evocation of domestic routines and the quality of small-town life ring true in beautifully captured details. But despite Bohjalian's evident compassion for decent people who behave irresponsibly in moments of crisis, it may be difficult for readers to accept Leland's unethical behavior, no matter how deep his emotional need. Since credibility is essential in understanding Leland's fall from grace, one finishes the novel wishing that Bohjalian had been able to portray his hero's quandary without so completely betraying Leland's moral principles. Author tour. (Jan.) FYI: Jessica Lange will appear in the ABC TV movie based on Midwives.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (March 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679771476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679771470
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lincoln, Vermont's Chris Bohjalian is the author of 17 books, including ten New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into roughly 30 languages and three times become movies.

The paperback of his most recent novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, will be published this May.

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.

His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia's Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He has been a weekly columnist in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press since February 1992.

Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer. Their daughter, Grace Experience, is a young actor in New York City. Among the audiobooks she has narrated is Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
The state of Vermont. Non-traditional medicine. A tragic death. Moral and legal ambiguities. A deeply engrossing story. Great characterization.
Sound familiar?
Yes. This is familiar territory for Chris Bohjalian, author of the best-selling "Midwives". And again, he does a great job.
I love the way he structures his books. The reader generally knows what is going to happen, but just doesn't know exactly how. And that is what the fascination is. That is what kept me reading, following the protagonist's thoughts and actions and totally getting into his skin.
The story is told in the first person by Leland Fowler, an 35-year old attorney in the Vermont State prosecutor's office. Just two years before, his wife died in a tragic car accident, leaving him to raise his young daughter, now aged 4. He's grieved for his wife for a long time, and his life lacks much pleasure.
When he develops a sore throat and cold that just doesn't go away he visits the local homeopath, Carissa Lake. There is an immediate attraction. His cold gets cured and a romance develops.
However, when one of Carissa's clients falls into a coma, there are legal and moral issues that come into play. The situation becomes more and more complex as Leland makes some ethnical choices that force him into a trap of his own making.
The title, "The Law of Similars" refers to a basic tenet of homeopathy whereby the patient is treated with an extremely diluted dose of something that has caused his problem, forcing the body to cure itself. For example, a person with poison ivy might take a weakened solution of an herb that is similar to poison ivy.
It is all fascinating reading -- the homeopathy, the legalities, and the ethical questions.
Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Did not read Midwives. This was my first Chris Bohjalian book. I was looking forward to it because I had read good things about Midwives, I live in Vermont and I know some homeopathy. I found the protagonist very likable in the beginning, although subtly suffering from a not-so-well-hidden "poor me" complex. But that was still understandable after all the poor man had been through... Things deteriorated for me when he started salivated at every skirt, young or old, that twitched in front of him. The foot fetish thing was not anything I could relate to in a positive way either. And, to top things off, the plot crumbled altogether with unbelievable issues, even more unbelievable denouements of same issues, pilfered homeopathic remedies that can be purchased for a few dollars in any health food store, unrealistic reactions to "overdoses" of arsenicum (please!...), an unreachable, unlikable, underdescribed, overall unhashed-out character of a homeopath/girlfriend. The main character lapsing back into his veiled "poor me" role at the unsatisfactory ending. On a more positive note, I found the basic writing style to be very good. Nice structure, well-turned phrases.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Denise M. on January 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I thought the book was a decent read but fell short of the type of character and plot development exhibited in Midwives. Good research on the subject of homeopathy but the story line was pretty flat. Unfortunately, the ending was pretty weak. It could have been a very good book given the subject matter however, it did not appear as if the author took the time to delve into the characters. They were pretty much superficial.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a little disconcerted about the similarities between "Midwives" and "The Law of Similars". Both deal with women in Vermont who practice non-traditional medicine and make mistakes that get them in hot water. The reasons that "Similars" is better is that 1) It has more humor. 2) It has a touching love story. 3) It depicts the love between a father and his young child poignantly. However, the case of the misguided homeopath is somewhat contrived and unrealistic. Nor do I believe that Fowler would have played fast and loose with the law the way he did. Bohjalian seems to be hung up on moral ambiguities in life. I have no problem with that per se, but he should stick a little closer to reality. However, in its favor, "The Law of Similars" is an engrossing and a fast read, with snappy dialogue and sharply delineated characters. It is a step up from "Midwives," which was far too dark and depressing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kay Mitchell on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This fast-moving novel of legal, medical, and ethical dilemas is hard to put down. The characters come alive as the plot thickens and we become enmeshed in the dramas of their lives. Leland Fowler, State Attorney and widower with a four-year-old daughter, meets Carissa Lake, a charming and lovely homeopath who not only cures Leland of his long time ills but who also falls in love with him. Homeopathy, a 200-year-old type of alternative medicine, plays a big part in the story that begins with alternative healing and ends with a unintended death. The question is whether the death is murder. What evoloves from that question is the focus of the book as legal ethics and moral compulsions vie for the top spot in both the office of the State Attorney and in the character's own lives. Definitely a page turner that you can't put down, this novel also sheds light on the field of homeopathy, and its authenticity, as well as on the human heart in all its many manifestations.
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