Thursday, August 04, 2011

BOUND by Antonya Nelson

This is a beautiful little book, not, despite references to the BTK serial killer, a thriller or mystery. Instead, the killer hovers at the periphery of the novel, connecting past and present, rich and poor, emotion and reason. All the characters are bound to each other, and throughout the novel, their connections deepen and evolve. In the end, we are all connected, though some connections have more impact on us than others.

Catherine is at the novel's center. The third (her mother, Grace, would say "trophy") wife of the fickle Oliver, she is nearing the age at which Oliver has left his previous two wives for a younger sweetheart. She is fascinated by the coverage of the BTK killer, returned to Wichita after all these years. She and her improbable friend-from-the-other-side-of-the-tracks, Misty, had relished the coverage of the original killings during their high school years. When Misty dies, Catherine finds out that her old friend had not only named her now fifteen-year-old daughter after Catherine, but has left guardianship of Cattie to Catherine. Catherine, who had given up on having children (Oliver had had a child with each of his previous wives, then had a vasectomy), decides to meet the girl, who is currently missing, before making a decision. Cattie becomes a rescuer of dogs and fugitive along with the PTSD-stricken soldier, Randall, one of her housemates. Dogs play key roles in this novel: Cattie obsesses over the fate of Max, whose empty kennel was found in Misty's car, Catherine's beloved corgis stand in for her absent children, and Cattie and Randall rescue a dog they call Bitch and her puppies. The BTK killer is another thread that secures multiple connections, with even Catherine's intellectual mother, Grace, watching the coverage from her nursing home. Catherine reflects on her childhood in the wake of Misty's death and of the killer's return.

BOUND is a slender novel, more a long short story in feel, but Nelson's gift with language gives it a deep richness that excuses a few dangling threads that leave the reader speculating. Connections can be strengthened or made more tenuous, and it is refreshing not to find out how every connection ultimately ends.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.

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