The plot of The Double Bind is highly based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby. If you are unfamiliar with The Great Gatsby, I’d recommend reading it or rereading it before tackling Bohjalian’s book. Or at least read a fairly comprehensive summary of Fitzgerald’s book so you know what’s what when Bohjalian starts talking about Gatsby, Daisy and East and West Egg.
Laurel Estabrook is a social worker in Vermont working with a homeless shelter. Several years before the novel takes place, Laurel was brutally attacked while out bicycling. When one of the homeless men, Bobbie Crocker, dies leaving behind a box of old photographs, Laurel’s boss asks her to look at the picture, knowing that Laurel has an interest in photography. What Laurel finds is a picture from the country club where she swam as a child, a country club in West Egg, New York. A country club that used to be the home of a Mr. Jay Gatsby. But in Bohjalian’s book, Gatsby was not a man of fiction, he was a real person, as are the events from Fitzgerald’s book. Also in the stack of photos is a picture of a woman riding a bike in a forest. Laurel knows she’s that woman. She needs to know why her picture is in this box. How is she connected to Bobbie Crocker? And how is he connected to that day?
As Laurel delves deeper and deeper, becoming more and more emotionally involved with this box of photos, and trying to figure out who this homeless man was, she becomes obsessed with the project, worrying her friends and co-workers. The life that she picked up off that forested road several years earlier begins to unravel.
I won’t say any more because there is a shocking end that brought goose bumps to my arms. I liked this book. I didn’t love it. But I liked it.
Rated: High. For the majority of the book, the language isn’t bad. But there are parts where Laurel’s attack while riding her bicycle in the woods is described in great, disturbing detail and that includes all the strong language that goes with it. I’m not a fan of long sex descriptions, but I can handle them in a book. This account is of a sexual assault, and that’s not something I want described in such vivid detail.