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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – February 12, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 452 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best known for the provocative and powerful novel, Midwives (an Oprah Book Club® Selection), Chris Bohjalian writes beautiful and riveting fiction featuring what the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed "ordinary people in heartbreaking circumstances behaving with grace and dignity." In his new novel, The Double Bind, a literary thriller with references to (and including characters from) The Great Gatsby, Bohjalian takes readers on a haunting journey through one woman's obsession with uncovering a dark secret. We think Bohjalian fans will be thrilled with this compelling and unforgettable read, but just to be sure, we asked bestselling author Jodi Picoult to read The Double Bind and give us her take. Check out her review below. --Daphne Durham

Guest Reviewer: Jodi Picoult

From the provocative and gut-wrenching The Pact, to the brilliant genre-bending The Tenth Circle, to her latest novel about a high school shooting Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult's riveting novels center on family and relationships, and bring to light questions and issues that remain with a reader long after the last page is turned.

I once heard a fellow novelist call writing "successful schizophrenia"--we invent people and worlds that don't exist; but instead of being medicated, we are paid for it. Although countless novels succeed in whisking the reader away on the heels of such fabrications, there are very few that pull the curtain away from the craft, allowing us inside the mind of a working novelist as he combines reality and fantasy. Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind is not just one of these; it's the finest example I've ever read of a book that tips its hat to both the beauty of the literary creation, as well as the magical act of creating.

Fact and fiction become indistinguishable in The Double Bind: The story centers on Laurel Estabrook, a young social worker and survivor of a near-rape, who stumbles across photographs taken by a formerly homeless client and tries to understand how a man who'd taken snapshots of celebrities in the 50s and 60s might have wound up on the streets. However, an author's note tells us that Bohjalian conceived this book after being shown a batch of old photographs taken by a once-homeless man; and the actual photos of Bob "Soupy" Campbell are peppered throughout the text. In another neat twist, Bohjalian's resurrects details from The Great Gatsby, which become "real" in the context of his own novel--Laurel lives in West Egg; part of her hunt for her photographer's past involves meeting with the descendants of Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

As a writer who counts The Great Gatsby as one of the books that changed her life, this inclusion was both startling and remarkable for me. Who doesn't want one's favorite characters to come to life--even if it's only within the constraints of another fictional work? But Bohjalian chose his text wisely: no discussion of The Great Gatsby is complete without alluding to missed opportunities and unreliable sources--critical elements in Laurel's quest. And therein lies Bohjalian's true double bind: all stories--even the ones we tell ourselves--are subject to our own interpretation, and to the degree we can make others believe them.

The Double Bind may flirt with the classics, but it's not your father's stuffy old tome: it's the sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless. It also, worthily, spotlights the cause of homelessness in a way that isn't preachy, but honest and explanatory. Ultimately, what Bohjalian's done is offer his lucky readers another reminder of why he's such an extraordinary author: by creating characters that become so real we lose the distinction between truth and embellishment; by reminding us that the story of any life--whether fictional, functional, or marginal--is one to be savored. --Jodi Picoult

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Readers will be startled to learn early on that the heroine of this engrossing puzzle, 26-year-old Laurel Estabrook, was born in West Egg. Wait a minute, wasn't West Egg where Jay Gatsby lived? Laurel works in a Burlington, Vt., homeless shelter and is trying to overcome mental and physical scars incurred from a brutal assault some six years earlier. After being given a portfolio of photographs taken by a recently deceased resident of the shelter, Bobbie Crocker, she becomes obsessed with questions surrounding what appears to be a picture of herself shot on the day of her attack. Laurel's already fragile mental state begins to unravel as she follows Bobbie's life from his rich-kid childhood on Long Island to homelessness in Vermont. The Gatsby references form the basis of the mystery, compelling readers to try to imagine how this fictional backdrop relates to the novel's "reality." It's a high-wire act for bestseller Bohjalian (Midwives), and while the climactic explanation may be a letdown for some, he generally pulls off a tricky and intriguing premise. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 395 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031665
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (452 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Many years ago, I stayed up nights, enthralled by The Great Gatsby. Here, author Chris Bohjalian commandeers the Great Gatsby characters and breathes new life into them in this complex literary thriller.

The preface is heart-pounding: Laura Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont's back roads. What really happened during that attack? I won't spoil it, but it's the catalyst for the rest of the novel, as Laura becomes obsessed with a former homeless patient with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that may hold the key to her past.

I welcomed "old friends" into my life again -- Jay Gatsby, Daisy & Tom Buchanan, their daughter Pamela (now a dowager herself), George and Myrtle Wilson. They hold sway with the new characters brought to life by Chris Bohjalian.

There are as many twists and turns in this novel as there are on the Vermont bike roads that Laurel no longer travels. It's a psychological mystery story that kept me turning pages. Once started, the book becomes a compulsive page-turner; not perfect, but highly readable.
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Format: Paperback
From the opening pages, I was mesmerized by the story of Laurel Estabrook, a young woman who at the beginning of her sophomore year in college is brutally attacked while bicycling. The attack sends her into a dramatic downward spiraling, changing her in ways that concern her friends. She appears to pull herself together and after graduation begins working at a homeless shelter. It is there she encounters Bobbie Crocker, a homeless man, who apparently had been a world-class photographer at one point in his life but dies homeless and without any known family. Laurel becomes obsessed with a box of photographs he left behind and begins piecing together a story of what his life must have been like before he lost control of circumstances.

If you've read The Great Gatsby, you will be doubly intrigued as favorite characters from that novel play prominent parts in this one. Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Myrtle and George Wilson, Meyer Wolfsheim, and particularly the Buchanan daughter Pamela and Jay Gatsby himself all figure prominently in Laurel's story.

Chris Bohjalian has taken an intriguing premise, juxtaposing the life of a fragile woman alongside her obsession with a homeless man's former life. What he does for readers is extraordinary, giving us a true page-turner that delves into delusions and blurs fiction with reality so effortlessly, that we are stunned as we race toward the heart-stopping finale. From the nostalgic photographs peppered throughout to the psychiatric documentation that periodically jars the reader, this is a mesmerizing novel that will keep you up all night and have you pondering its shocking conclusion long after you have shut the book.
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Format: Hardcover
A surprisingly literate psychological thriller about a social worker, a destitute photographer and the folks who flocked around The Great Gatsby. This book gets better and better as it goes, and evolves into one of the most interesting novels I've read in quite a while. Highly recommended, but be careful not to let anyone tell you too much about it. By all means, avoid all reviews that might give away too much.
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Format: Hardcover
Part way through this review I'm going to give away the ending of Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind. Consider yourself warned.

Novelists can feel free to invent imaginary worlds. Philip Roth did this very well in The Plot Against America, imagining a world in which Charles Lindbergh had become president; and Michael Chabon in The Yiddish Policeman's Union has created a world in which 1948 marked the increased ostracization of Jews rather than the creation of the state of Israel. (I think that's what he's done; I just started reading it.) But having established the rules of their fictional worlds, writers must abide by them.

The world Bohjalian creates in The Double Bind is identical to the real world in every way, except that the novel The Great Gatsby was a true story: Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, their daughter Pamela, and others from the classic Fitzgerald novel are or were real people. Several characters in the The Double Bind confirm this; indeed part of the story is told from the point of view of one of the characters from Gatsby. But Bohjalian changes the rules of his world at the end of the novel by revealing that The Great Gatsby is fictional afterall and the main character of The Double Bind is delusional. Things Bohjalian has presented to us as facts did not really happen. Characters we have seen interact with other "real" characters do not really exist. They were part of an account written by the deranged heroin of the story.

Watch The Sixth Sense again and look for interaction between the guy who turns out to be dead and any other living characters except the boy who sees dead people. Doesn't happen. That's what makes the revelation that the guy is actually dead so powerful: we realize we should have, or at least could have, known it along. With The Double Bind, we didn't have that chance. The ending leaves us feeling cheated, because we were.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I've read this year, I've been recommending it to everyone I know. The book starts with a frightening attack on a young woman named Laurel on an idyllic country road in Vermont. Seven years later, Laurel is working at homeless shelter in Burlington, Vermont. She becomes immersed in a project involving photographs taken by Bobbie Crocker, a recently deceased man with mental illness who received services from the homeless shelter where she works. Laurel, who grew up in West Egg on Long Island, becomes convinced that Bobbie was the son of Daisy Buchanan, the mistress of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby. Laurel begins a quest to discover why Bobbie, son of a privileged American family, ended up homeless and alone in Vermont. It's a true page-turner. The surprising ending is revealed at just the right time and makes you want to re-read the book immediately to catch what you missed the first time. I was sad to say good-bye to the characters because good books like this are so rare. Savor it.

I live in Vermont and being able to identify various settings in the book was a thrill. I'll be interested to hear what my out-of-state reading friends think about it.

If you want to read more books by the author, I also recommend Hangman. It's a great ghost story, also set in Vermont.(I believe it's out of print but my dad recently bought a copy on Amazon Marketplace)
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