The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This summer flew by and last night it was time for another gathering of the in person R&R Book Club.  In an earlier post I discussed how I made my way to join this group of learned ladies for book fun outside the walls of WDFPL.

The gathering began around 7:00 and I made my way through the fog down the winding road to a world of new ideas and great conversation.  I had never been to Susan’s place before and the beautiful warm natural materials of the home coupled with the soaring ceilings gave the feeling of escapism to a vacation retreat.

Snacks and drinks were plentiful mirroring the opulence so prevalent in the pages of The Great Gatsby, one of the reading selections for the evening.

This book club is a clever group.  They selected The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian for the summer reading selections.  Earlier this summer I dragged out The Great Gatsby thinking “here we go again.?  Upon earlier readings, I missed the depth and style of the work and am not alone in my ignorance as Robert Redford, Jay Gatsby on film, read it as a boy in school and admitted that it did not hold his attention at the time.  He concurs that he couldn’t get around emotions in his youth, yet reading it several times later he gained appreciation for the words. 

I highly recommend reading the books together and will not spoil the plot of The Double Bind in this review.  Here are some parallels I see between the books.  The Great Gatsby portrays characters with wildness that can’t calm down; they are always searching for a good time.  The Double Bind portrays Laurel searching for answers much in the same way.  There is a frenetic pace to both novels.  There is world weariness about both books and in both cases aging includes recovering from something traumatic.

The Great Gatsby is told by Nick Caraway from an outsider’s perspective.  Nick expresses disapproval of the lavish lifestyle of the characters much in the same way that the narrator in The Double Bind condemns Laurel’s mother and associates for their unaffected lifestyles throughout the book. Subtle references to the lavishness of American life also build through the content of Laurel’s photos in The Double Bind.  In both cases, the narrator documents the novel with complex reactions to American society of the time. 

In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s obsession leads to his decline while the same can be said for Laurel’s obsession with the photos that leads to her decline in The Double Bind.  Main characters do not want to confront truth in either book.  Quick bursts of dialog and poetic references to America are posed by both authors.    The Great Gatsby and The Double Bind contain insightful storytelling.  The works suggest we break with the past, but can we?  Is it easier and/or safer to create one’s own sense of reality?

A great novel keeps teaching you things.  I was truly impressed by the deep dissection of the works at the book club meeting.  Several members had reread the books and discussion detailed analysis of plot, characters, photos, and questions from support sources. 

Thanks to the members of the R&R Book Club for sharing great friendship and insights.  The Double Bind discussion lasted until 10:30 p.m. when I had to leave to pick up my daughter and, yes, the group was still talking about books!

Thanks to The Big Read audio guide for making The Great Gatsby clearer in my mind this morning.  – “Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.? 

Comments are closed.