THE LAW OF SIMILARS by Chris Bohjalian


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Bohjalian (Midwives, 1997, etc.) returns to small-town Vermont for a meditation on grief and healing. But what begins with a strong voice and slow pace loses its center, becoming by the end fraught with strained dialogue and inconceivable plot. The reader meets Leland Fowler, Deputy State’s Attorney in the village of Bartlett, two years after his wife’s death. He is single father to six-year-old Abby, and he’s developed a gut and a chronic soar throat. Carissa Lake, the homeopath he goes to see, informs him of homeopathy’s basic tenet, that like cures like, and prescribes a remedy of arsenic that instantly cures his two-year cold. Leland becomes obsessed with Carissa and the two have a night of love beneath the Christmas tree. But where Leland’s grief starts to end is where the couple’s trouble begins—one of Carissa’s patients falls into a coma that his wife believes is the homeopath’s fault, and Leland is the first lawyer to hear her story. Things speed up as Carissa and Leland perform a series of random acts designed to cover up their acquaintance and Carissa’s potential guilt. From the night the two of them doctor documents that would chronicle their reckless meetings, the reader is expected to accept the idea that Leland would jeopardize his career, his position in the church and community, and Abby’s stability, to help a woman he’s slept with once. Meanwhile, the lovers— downward spiral is paralleled by Leland’s sketchily told addiction to homeopathic arsenic. That he makes no connection between the “remedy” and his body’s Emma Bovaryesque response, and that no character suffers the consequences of their actions, strains belief. A two-dimensional take on morality through formulaically good characters whose bad behavior is a bit of a stretch. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1999
ISBN: 0-517-70586-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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