Double Bind

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Book and Author

The Double Bind

Meet Laurel–a caseworker at a homeless shelter who suffered a trauma in college and is obsessed with The Great Gatsby.  When she is given a box of photographs that belonged a resident of the shelter, she unearths truths that threaten to throw her fragile world upside down. Published in 2007, 368 pages.  Watch the official book trailer below to learn more:

Chris Bohjalian
Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer, and their daughter Grace Experience.

For more about Chris Bohjalian, including how his local homeless shelter help inspire the issues he explores in The Double Bind, watch this video:

Link to The Path to Vermont video series:

Quote from the book:

The reality, of course, is that Campbell probably wound up homeless for any one of the myriad reasons that most transients wind up on the streets: Mental illness. Substance abuse. Bad luck. We tend to stigmatize the homeless and blame them for their plight. We are oblivious to the fact that most had lives as serious as our own before everything fell apart.


Topics this book will bring up for discussion include:

  • The way Bohjalian seamlessly weaves the characters and world of The Great Gatsby into this novel and how it’s themes compare to those of The Great Gatsby.
  • The way Bohjalian portrays the homeless in the novel and how it meshed or didn’t mesh with the views of the group members on this topic.
  • The significance of the title–which Bohjalian explains as: a “double bind” is a psychiatric term for a “particular brand of bad parenting [that] could inadvertently spawn schizophrenia” [p. 215]

More discussion guides are available at


Your group members were probably intrigued by the photographs that are interspersed throughout the pages of Double Bind.  These photographs were really taken by a man who became homeless–his name is Bob Campbell and you can find out more about him at this website--it includes a biography, a photo gallery, and information about resources to help the homeless.  More of his photographs can be viewed on this blog, which was created by Jessica Ferber, who is curating his collection of photographs for the CIty of Burlington.

Food does not play a big part in The Double Bind, however this list of food items that appear in the book from the Book Menu blog may be helpful in planning the snacks for your meeting.  Your group may wish to have some music softly playing in the background that is from one of the people that appears in Bob Campbell’s photographs–like Muddy Waters or Bob Dylan.


Have you or your book group read Double Bind?  Would you recommend it to other book groups?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this post.