Valuable quotes

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." ~~

"The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you've already lost." ~~

Cree Prophecy - "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money." ~~

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Double Bind

If I had to give this book some sort of star rating out of five, I’d give it five and a half! Not only did it satisfy everything I look for when buying a book, but it added a perfect jacket illustration as well – my first thought was ‘is she going quickly or am I not seeing this clearly?’ It’s a blurred image of a young woman pedaling her bicycle. And it’s the perfect image for what's to be found within, and how our everyday perceptions can, and usually are blurred.

This is a tale of compassion, compulsion and obsession – the lines between wealth and poverty strongly defined à la Fitzgerald. And at times a gut-wrenching story of homelessness and the mentally ill.
The knocking down of assumptions previously held.

The Double Bind clarifies for the reader that things aren’t all black and white, but truth is often the shade of gray. Laurel, the heroine of this book says "You understood a person better in black and white." But as she quickly learns in her own life, things are not black and white at all! I applaud Bohjalian's ability to cut smoothly across the two, linking them and giving the reader a truer picture of lives as he leads us to explore the human psyche and how it fights to survive by any means.

Every character in this tale is truly memorable. It begins with a young college sophomore, Laurel Estabrook being attacked by masked thugs while cycling the rural roads of Vermont one evening. Previous to the attack, Laurel had been an outgoing young woman, but not surprising, the attack leaves her immediately withdrawn and introspective.

As she buries herself in her photography, she visits a homeless shelter and learns of the existence of Bobbie Crocker. Bobbie was a mentally ill gentleman who had been a resident of the shelter and who claimed he had once been a great photographer too.
He was shy about showing his work to anyone and has the photographs hidden safely away in a box. When Bobbie dies, Laurel gets possession of the box and discovers Bobbie was indeed telling the truth. The box is filled with photos of legends such as Chuck Berry and Eartha Kitt, Robert Frost and Jay Gatsby to name just a few.

As Laurel’s fascination moves towards obsession, her examination of the photos convinces her that some of his photographs reveal a deeply hidden, dark family secret. Her family. Her search for the truth will lead her further from her old life and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.

I love Bohjalians use of black and white photos at the beginning of many of the chapters. He has chosen less than a dozen, but intersperses them into the book with no intent to tie to the story, perhaps only to jar the reader back to another plane once more.

The photos are in fact, the work of a once homeless, real photographer, Bob ‘Soupy’ Campbell, and as you study the photos, you ask yourself how a man of this talent could ever end up homeless and mentally ill. It’s the best question you can ask yourself, proving that these people aren’t oddities, they haven’t chosen this life, but in fact are victims of circumstance; their lives having fallen apart around them. And reminding us it can happen to any one of us.

Double bind is a medical term having to do with children receiving mixed or contradictory messages from their parents leading to a dysfunctional family situation. Sometimes it can occur outside the immediate family as well, leading to a major mental breakdown. I believe what Chris Bohjalian intended was not just to write a story to entertain, but to educate the reader as well. He was attempting to show us all what can so easily happen and to give compassion where needed. However, he has imbedded the message in a wonderfully written story.

You may feel once you’ve reached the last page, you want to go back to page one and begin again. I say this not because it’s a bad story, but because it’s that good! From the strangely lilting, almost poetic prologue, to the twisted ending which leaves you compelled to go back and absorb the story anew. But definitely read it at least once!

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