Thursday, August 1, 2013

Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

In a decidedly different novel, Bohjalian seems to continue the Gatsby story where Fitzgerald left off. Gatsby has been dead for decades but his presence still looms large. His house on the cove, that looks like a castle, has been converted to a swim club.

In a book that explores mental illness, nothing is as it seems. Bobbie Crocker, a homeless man, is convinced that people are after him for his collection of photographs. 

After his death, a young social worker examines the photographs and determines that they have artistic value. Before Bobbie Crocker was homeless he worked off and on for Life magazine. No one recognizes the humanity of the homeless but Bobby's collection might changes their minds. Recognizing this, Laurel aims to curate a show of Bobby's photographs.

Laurel spends all of her free time in University of Vermont's dark room printing negatives and hiding the collection from those who want to steal it. But is all as it seems? Laurel's friends began to worry about her sanity as she begins her solitary trek to resolve the mystery of Bobbie Crocker. 

While this is a novel that challenges readers and offers a unique point of view, I'm not sure that Bohjalian really pulls it off. For the most part, we are told about Bobby but do not really seem him interact with the characters. Readers do not know much about him as a person. 

Bohjalian uses real photographs from a real homeless persons' collection  (Bob "Soupy" Campbell). While that is an interesting blend of fiction with real circumstances, the narrative falls short.