The Double Bind – Book Review

I really wanted to love this book because Chris Bohjalian is a favorite author of mine. I am drawn to psychological thrillers, so I thought this book would sweep me away. But it didn’t.  I found it rather contrived and unbelievable. And, without giving away the ending, I was left rather confused about the point of view of the book once the twist was revealed. There seemed to be so many plot holes and coincidences, and ultimately I wasn’t sure what was truth and what was not.

Bohjalian begins the novel with lots of back story. I found myself having to re-read sections to try to keep all the characters and events straight in my mind.  I think Bohjalian probably could have shaved a third the back story off and had a more manageable story.

Laurel, the main character, and her friend Talia are two likeable characters. Their friendship makes sense; the reader finds herself wanting to know more about these two young women.  Bohjalian’s  handling of the men in the book, however, left me cold. Whit, the guy who I believe the reader is meant to like, comes across as sexually immature and patronizing. Laurel’s boyfriend – David – simply annoyed me…perhaps he was supposed to annoy me.

Whenever he dated women even close to his age, he felt on the first date that he was being scrutinized as a marriage prospect; if he passed – which invariably he would because he was breathing and employed – by the second or the third the subject of children would arise.
– From The Double Bind, page 163-164 –

It was this attitude – condescending and chauvinistic – that got under my skin.

Bohjalian has written a book about mental illness, and fantasy versus reality. He interjects a socially sensitive subject like homelessness and victimization and leaves the reader feeling manipulated rather than entertained.

I can’t recommend this one.

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    • Anonymous on March 9, 2007 at 20:47

    The first negative review of this book! Ooo! This is one of those books everyone’s gushing about. And my copy is on the UPS truck at this very moment making it’s way towards my house. Hopefully. That’s disappointing that you didn’t like it, Wendy. I’ll still read it, but your thoughts will be in the back of my mind.

    • Anonymous on March 9, 2007 at 21:02

    Oh, I know I’m going to get a lot of smack about this one! *laughs* But, I really had a hard time reading this one. I’d love to discuss it with you when you’re done reading it…I don’t want to say to much because it will ruin the ending for you. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say on this one, Wendy!

    • Anonymous on March 10, 2007 at 18:01

    I just bought this one, as I LOVE Chris Bohjalian…I hope to get to it soon! I am sorry you didn’t like it…hopefully I will have better luck :0) Happy Reading!

    • Anonymous on March 10, 2007 at 20:22

    Yikes! I just started it…so far, so good.

    • Anonymous on March 10, 2007 at 21:58

    I’m prepared to be in the minority on this book…so far others seemed to have liked it WAY better than I did.

    • Anonymous on March 14, 2007 at 18:59

    Hi…I literally just finished THE DOUBLE BIND and I agree with you 100%! I am actually feeling a little angry. All along I thought the book was “just okay”, but continued to read thinking the ending was going to be the highlight…big mistake. I feel betrayed and abused. So, don’t feel alone. Unfortunately we are in the same camp. 🙁

    • Anonymous on March 14, 2007 at 19:25

    I’m glad to know I’m not alone (all I’ve seen are great reviews on this book!); but I’m sorry your reading experience was as disappointing as my own. I have a feeling that by the time the voting is all in, there will be others like you and me.

    • Anonymous on March 18, 2007 at 19:25

    As I was reading this book, I kept thinking, “Why am I still reading this?” My answer: I like the author and it’s on the best seller list, and maybe it will get better. When I got to the end, my jaw dropped and I wished I would have read the book with more appreciation. I don’t have time to reread it…………there are so many other good books to read. The Double Bind is not a simple work of fiction. It’s truly a masterpiece. If only I’d known that from the beginning!!

    • Anonymous on March 18, 2007 at 19:47

    I’ll grant you that the twist at the end was unexpected. But I can’t agree that this is a masterpiece. Ah well, we can’t all like the same books…and it makes for a more interesting world that way!

    • Anonymous on April 8, 2007 at 20:54

    To find your way through the fog of the book — what is real and what Laurel has imagined — remember:
    * Everything Dr. Pierce writes is real.
    * Dan Corbett’s letter? Real.
    * Everything else? Assume it is Laurel writing her novel in the State Hospital, after the PTSD episode and intervention.
    All best,
    Chris Bohjalian

    • Anonymous on April 8, 2007 at 22:11

    Wow, I’ve never had a comment from an author before! Thanks for visiting, Chris. I’m sorry I couldn’t give your book a better review…as I said, you are one of my favorite authors (and I loved Midwives and The Buffalo Soldier). Thanks for the pointers…perhaps I should give this another read sometime and see if I feel differently! Hope you’ll visit again.

    • Anonymous on September 11, 2007 at 08:14

    Yes I was a little troubled/confused/angry at the end. I felt lied to because when I am given veiws of the other characters I feel like I am veiwing a GOD cam and that these are true bits and peices that I as a reader are allowed to see.
    I assume that this being let down experience is intended to stimulate the reader to think deeply about there own experience of reality and cause greater sympathy with the reality of the true main character of the book. In that respect it was masteful. I sent out a prayer for those injured people I know who really do struggle with reality in this way.
    Very thought provoking for sure.

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