So, when I was helping my son study for his test on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I somehow came across a summary of The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. The blurb said that in The Double Bind, Tom and Daisy have a son after Fitzgerald's novel ends. The son grows up and falls on hard times, finally dying as a homeless man with a collection of pictures of famous people, including Gatsby himself. Now they had my interest. Gatsby is one of my all time favorites, and I'd love to know what Tom and Daisy did after the last page was turned.
The Double Bind begins with Laurel talking about a time that she was attacked by two men in the woods and almost raped seven years earlier. In the present day, Laurel is working at a homeless shelter in Vermont. A man who she knows from the shelter, Bobbie Crocker, dies leaving a cache of old photos. The pictures include some of Laurel's swim club from her hometown of West Egg, and one that might be of Laurel herself. The director of the homeless shelter thinks that the photos may be good enough to put together a show as a fundraiser. She assigns Laurel to print more photos from the negatives and get the pictures ready to display. Laurel takes on the project with more enthusiasm that anyone expected.
Early on in the project, Laurel begins to think that Bobbie might be Tom and Daisy's son. She travels to East Egg to meet with the woman who she thinks must be Bobbie's older sister, Pamela Buchanan, only to be told that Pamela's brother had died decades earlier, and could not possibly be Bobbie. While trying to prove the connection and figure out why Pamela would deny it, Laurel meets with people who knew Bobbie, and learns more about his story.
It was a little disconcerting at first to have Laurel taking about going home to visit West Egg. It was like saying that she was going to Neverland. But of course, since Gatsby is fiction to begin with, why couldn't a later story be set in the same towns? I was also a little annoyed that so much of the story was about Laurel and her attack. I really wanted to hear more about the West Egg of Gatsby's era than about Laurel in the modern day. At the end the plot took a major twist that was satisfying, but disappointing at the same time. It was satisfying in the sense that the ends were tied up, and I finally understood why there was so much focus on Laurel, but disappointing in that what I wanted to happen didn't.
The Double Bind has a basis in real life, in that the novel was inspired by a man, Bob Campbell, who was homeless in Vermont, and died leaving great pictures of famous people behind. I'm counting this book for both the Audiobook and the I Love Library Books Challenges.
Next up on CD: We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Still Reading: The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman