owl in winter

owl in winter

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Reads

I have to say, I had not heard of Chris Bohjalian before now. And what is even more bizarre, I picked one of his books up off the "editors' remnants" tables at Barnes and Noble and walked away with it on a whim. I had no idea what I was in for.

"The Double Bind." What a mesmerizing tale. I don't know why I found this book or why this book found me. Maybe because I have always felt the plight of the homeless, felt the derision of the mentally ill, wondered where that man walking with a backpack was going to sleep at night, wondered who he once had been and what brought him to the point of grimy hopelessness, the depths of total despair.

The double bind, what does that term mean, exactly? After reading this book and researching it a bit, I believe it means, "being taught to believe in one thing by a superior while the superior behaves in a completely opposite fashion." Just my interpretation, but you understand. According to the experts, this double standard of expected behavior can cause schizophrenia.

Here's the book.

A brutal attack on a young woman in Vermont. She is left alone to die, to bleed to death, along the woods, on a country road. She blocks out the savagery of the attack, believing for years that she escaped with nothing more than a broken collarbone and broken finger. Throwing herself into her job at a homeless shelter, she believes she is putting the whole episode behind her.

A box of old photos, crisp and peeling at the edges, left behind by a mentally ill homeless man, a talented photographer, someone our heroine, survivor of the brutal attack, identifies with and wants to know intimately. Who was Bobbie Crocker? What do these photos mean?

The heroine's quest to first validate Bobbie Crocker and then herself, spirals her into the netherworlds of the mentally ill. This book will entice you, will bring you to the edge of your seat. When you think you know what is happening, trust me, you don't.

Chris Bohjalian writes seamlessly, flawlessly, in this novel. His construction of this entire story (complete with photos), is nothing less than fabulous.

"The Double Bind" is a psychological thriller you need to pick up. I can't wait to read another one of Chris Bohjalian's books.

Switching gears completely now. For some southern sweetness, let's travel to Mullaby, North Carolina, for Sarah Addison Allen's new book, "The Girl Who Chased the Moon." Seventeen-year old Emily's mother passes away and there is no one left to take her in. As a result, she comes to Mullaby to live with her grandfather, an eight-foot giant, in a house where the wallpaper changes with the mood. She soon learns that Mullaby, for all it's sleepy sweetness, is not the town she expected. Secrets, old recriminations, old tragedies whisper through the trees. Her deceased mother's name is a bad word in that town, but why? Mysterious lights appear in her grandfather's back yard. Emily makes a new friend, Julia, who is working through her own secret pain by baking cakes, beautiful, sugary, rich cakes. Julia believes she is calling someone back home with the smell of her baking, but who? The long-buried dream Julia carries- will it come true? Wyn Morgan is the nicest boy in town but carries a peculiar affliction. Will he and Emily be able to be together in the face of his family's strong disapproval?
Sarah Addison Allen is a rich voice, an enchanting beckoning voice. This story, as with all of her stories, will bring you in and hold you in a starry, gossamer, magic world long after you put the book down.

"The Girl Who Chased the Moon" is a beautiful book, full of magic, romance and carrying a strong hint of food. As with all of Sarah Addison Allen's other books, the cover itself is amazing. Just wait until you enter the world of Mullaby. You'll be enchanted, I promise.

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