Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Second Tier

The Double Bind
by Chris Bohjalian

I refer to this as a "second tier" book because there is nothing awful about it, but nor does it make a major impression. While reading it, I enjoyed it and found it a pretty engaging story that moved along at a good clip. However, it is not one of those books that sticks with you or that you find yourself wanting to read over and over again. There are lots of second tier books out there, and they serve a purpose. Without them, we would not recognize first tier books when we encountered them.

One problem with The Double Bind is that there is a Sixth Sense-esque twist at the end, but it does not come as a surprise. Any halfway discerning reader who is paying attention can spot it about 100 pages from the end. I can't write about it because that would spoil the story for those who choose to read it, but in my opinion the big revelation did not pack enough punch.

In brief, The Double Bind traces the detective work of a young female social worker as she investigates the history of some photographs taken by one of her recently deceased clients who was both homeless and mentally ill. Interestingly, the author got the idea for the story from a real client in a Vermont homeless shelter. One of the book's strengths is that it serves as a reminder that every homeless person has a history and a story that are worth hearing. The most unlikely people can have talents and gifts that do contribute to society, whether we choose to recognize them or not. The book also leads us to question our preconceived notions about the mentally ill.

Reverent Reader


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