Cassandra's Reviews > Bound

Bound by Antonya Nelson
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Dec 26, 2010

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Read from December 22 to 24, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Bound is a story that takes its name from the BTK Killer, and much of the story’s action takes place in Wichita, Kansas, the killer’s hunting ground in the late 1970s. Fast forward 30 years, and he is assumed dead. To prove that he’s still there, he starts releasing information to the media, proof that he went dormant but did not disappear. The citizens of Wichita are not alone in their fascination with the tale, watching the events closely until the killer’s identity is revealed, and he is arrested. It’s an interesting story. However, it doesn’t do a lot to move along the plot of the story, so it’s not entirely clear why it’s such a recurrent theme in the story. In fact, Nelson’s attempts to keep his narrative going throughout her own seem forced. Her story is about being “bound” by the ties of friendship, by shared experiences, and by obligation. It has very little to do with a serial killer.

The story focuses on the ties that bind Catherine to Cattie, her namesake and the daughter of her best childhood friend. When Cattie's mother dies in a car accident while she is away at boarding school, Cattie thinks that she is all alone in the world. She "disappears" to avoid ending up in foster care. Meanwhile, Catherine learns that she has been named the girl's guardian and must decide how she is going to proceed. Their paths finally cross when Cattie decides to return to Houston and is found by the police a on the road not far from Wichita. Catherine, in Houston to handle Misty's estate, has her husband pick Cattie up and bring her home. The two Catherine's quickly bond. The emptiness that Cattie knew she was feeling is somewhat alleviated, and the hole that Catherine does not even know she has her in her life is filled by teenager's presence. Through their bond, they are both able to reconnect with Misty in a way that neither would have ever been able to do had she lived.

The most interesting, and most poignant, bond that forged in this story, however, has very little to do with Catherine or Cattie. When Catherine makes her trip to Houston, her husban, Oliver, agrees to visit her mother in the nursing home where she has lived since having a stroke. The two have never gotten along; Oliver is just a few years younger than Dr. Grace Harding, and she has always felt that he married her daughter so that he could have a "trophy". On this particular visit, however, they are able to bond over a virtual trip to Rome. The two adversaries are able to realize they have more in common than they would have expected.

The story is very well-written; Nelson's command of the language is unquestioned. She is more known for her short fiction, and her skill in that area is made apparent throughout the novel. Each chapter is told almost as a story in and of itself. This approach can work very effectively when the stories are only thematically related and not meant to be telling an on-going story about a set group of characters (see Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles). It is not as effective here; the different threads are meant to be woven together, but she leaves too many dangling. The beauty of the individual stories is diminished by the attempt to make them all work together.

Overall, it is a very pleasant read. In this case, however, the parts outshine the whole.
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