When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.
Laurel Estabrook is just nineteen when she is attacked while riding her bike in a local park in Vermont. Her unidentified assailants jump out of a dark colored late model van, intent on causing her serious harm. Laurel fights for her life and manages to escape but not without scratches, bruises, one broken finger and plenty of emotional trauma. Somehow in the middle of the scuffle she also manages to memorize the van's license plate, so it's not long before her attackers are in custody. It turns out one guy has a job as a personal trainer and owns a gym marketed toward professional body builders. This guy also has been tied to other assault and rape cases, something his partner had no idea about.
Laurel gradually comes back from her trauma, does her best to rejoin society but her experience unfortunately did scar her with PTSD and agorophobia. She decides to give up biking, taking up swimming instead. During one of her outings, Laurel meets Katherine Maguire, the founder / director of the local homeless shelter, decides to start volunteering there. Through her volunteer work she meets Bobbie Crocker, a former professional photographer, now homeless and schizophrenic, working to get into subsidized housing. When Laurel looks through some of his photography work, the novel's big mystery begins to kick in. She notices that of all the celebrity photos in his collection, not one seems to directly credit Crocker's name. Laurel starts working through this mystery to distract her from the days when her PTSD symptoms are at their worst. But then there is one surprising photo that shakes her to her core --- a photo of the house where Laurel grew up. She begins to develop a theory about Crocker, something that may surprise readers in the way it links him to a famous couple within classic literature (in a unique but confusing way).
Note: "Double Bind", in simplistic terms, is a psychology reference that notes damaging effects of contradictory information / explanation / instruction. In the case of parenting, if bad enough, it's theorized that the child on the receiving end can potentially develop schizophrenia in such an environment. Double Bind the novel uses this idea to play with the idea of "nature vs. nuture".
It's not a perfect novel, but it got some things right enough to keep me reading. As far as the mystery end goes, much of Laurel's line of thinking I found to be pretty reaching. What captured me as a reader were the themes of mental illness / PTSD & the effect on normal life routines, and the topic of homelessness. Being someone who both battles mental illness of my own and has been on staff of homeless shelters, comparing my own experiences to those posed here at least held me to the story that much ... but in general, I was struggling to remain invested through the second half of the book.
A couple of the things that did stand out to me, though:
* Having the character of Crocker be inspired by a real photographer and then incorporating the real photographer's work (photos) throughout the novel was a cool touch that brought a more personal level to the story.
* I loved Marissa and Cindy, David's small daughters -- can't help but cheer for young Marissa's already established pronounced empathy as well as her BS detector ... but David's quiet but pervasive, almost martyr-ish "she's lucky to have me" attitude toward his relationship with Laurel low-key bugged me.
I keep trying with Bohjalian... and while I did certainly like this one at times... I've yet to be really wowed by one of his novels.