The Double Bind - Chris Bohjalian I really wanted to like this book, as I found the premise fascinating. The execution, though, was so weak that it was almost unbearable to force my way through the entire book.

The story centers on Laurel, who survived a brutal attack as a young college student. She graduates from college, dates older men, and works at a homeless shelter, where she comes across a man named Bobbie, who carries with him a mysterious box of photographs. Laurel becomes obsessed with the photographs and with figuring out where Bobbie came from and how he ended up in her homeless shelter.

Bohjalian's exposition is dreadful. It frustrated me that he gave Laurel a mystery to solve, but gave the reader the answer on the very first page of the first chapter. It's more enticing if the reader is trying to solve the mystery alongside the characters, more clever to dangle the hints in front of us to see if we catch on to them.

The character development was just as weak as the exposition. The book jacket told me that Laurel was so traumatized by her almost-rape that she withdrew from society and began working at the homeless shelter as a means of dealing with it. However, this wasn't a part of the story at all, outside of the prologue, where it was briefly touched on in the form of a few sentences. As the story goes on, Laurel barely seems to be affected by the attack at all, except when Bohjalian explicitly states that she doesn't like having sex in the missionary position because it makes her think of her attackers and that she doesn't like to be in the state of Vermont on the anniversary of the attack.

None of the secondary characters had any depth whatsoever. Laurel's roommate, smitten neighbor, much older boyfriend, and shelter coworkers were all flat and acted without motivation or reason.

The biggest weakness in this book, though, is the supposed twist ending that much of the events, including the Gatsby connections and the fact that her boyfriend has two daughters, exist only in Laurel's head. This is a cheap way of ending the novel made especially problematic by the fact that Bohjalian had given these supposedly-imaginary characters their own scenes where they actually have their own thoughts, personalities, and interactions with real characters. If he wanted us to believe that these characters were non-existant, then we never should have seen them outside of their interactions with Laurel.

This book was such a terrible letdown, poorly structured and written with ho-hum prose. The entire time I was reading it, all I could think about was how it should have been written instead.