Poorly Written

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Bound: A Novel
by Antonya Nelson

Published: 2010-09-28
Hardcover : 240 pages
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Antonya Nelson is known for her razor-sharp depictions of contemporary family life in all of its sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious complexity. Her latest novel has roots in her own youth in Wichita, in the neighborhood stalked by the serial killer known as BTK (Bind, Torture, and Kill). ...
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Antonya Nelson is known for her razor-sharp depictions of contemporary family life in all of its sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious complexity. Her latest novel has roots in her own youth in Wichita, in the neighborhood stalked by the serial killer known as BTK (Bind, Torture, and Kill). A story of wayward love and lost memory, of public and private lives twisting out of control, Bound is Nelson's most accomplished and emotionally riveting work.

Catherine and Oliver, young wife and older entrepreneurial husband, are negotiating their difference in age and a plethora of well-concealed secrets. Oliver, now in his sixties, is a serial adulterer and has just fallen giddily in love yet again. Catherine, seemingly placid and content, has ghosts of a past she scarcely remembers. When Catherine's long-forgotten high school friend dies and leaves Catherine the guardian of her teenage daughter, that past comes rushing back. As Oliver manages his new love, and Catherine her new charge and darker past, local news reports turn up the volume on a serial killer who has reappeared after years of quiet.

In a time of hauntings and new revelations, Nelson's characters grapple with their public and private obligations, continually choosing between the suppression or indulgence of wild desires. Which way they turn, and what balance they find, may only be determined by those who love them most.

Editorial Review

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The dog had two impulses. One was to stay with the car, container of civilization, and the other was to climb through the ruined window into the wild. Wait with the woman, or dash toward the distant rushing water? ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Bound begins and ends with Max, Misty and Cattie’s dog who survives a car crash and finds
a new life in Arizona. What does Max’s dog’s-eye view add to the novel? How are Cattie,
Randall, Catherine, and Elise changed by dog ownership over the course of the novel?
2. News of the serial killer BTK winds through Bound. Although we never meet the BTK in the
novel, how does his reappearance in Wichita pull all the characters together?
3. Misty dies in the first chapter of Bound, but her life becomes clearer as the novel continues.
What first impression does Misty make before her fatal car accident? How does Misty’s
character come into focus, as we learn more about her early years in Wichita and her midlife
successes in Houston?
4. Discuss how Cattie handles the loss of her mother. How does she manage her grief, and at
which moments is she overwhelmed with emotion? Consider the feelings of guilt that Cattie
expresses when she declares, “the fact remained: her mother had been alive, and sober, when
they lived in the same place” (30).
5. Consider Oliver’s attitude toward the women in his life, including his wives, daughters, and
“Sweetheart.” What is Oliver’s philosophy of love and fidelity? Why does his affair with the
Sweetheart eventually fizzle? Of all the women from his past, who continues to have the
strongest hold on him today?
6. Discuss Catherine’s attitudes toward her hometown. Is it surprising that Misty left Wichita
instead of Catherine? Why or why not? How does Cattie’s move to Wichita help Catherine
see Wichita in new ways?
7. Consider the circumstances of Cattie’s cross-country road trip with Randall. How does this
unlikely pair come together? How does Cattie feel when Randall disappears after they run
out of gas? What reasons might Randall have had for leaving Cattie?
8. Oliver and the BTK are both “Wichitans to Watch” in the local newspaper. How does Oliver
react to this public link to the serial killer? Why does Oliver feel a private “shiver of
troubling recognition” when the BTK is finally caught (223)? Which of his own secrets does
Oliver recognize within the BTK’s rise and fall?
9. Catherine eventually realizes that Cattie “had not been running away, she’d been running
home” (191). What does “home” mean to Catherine and to Cattie? Does either of them find a
true home by the end of the novel? Why or why not?
10. Consider how the events of Bound force characters to reconsider their public lives and
private histories. Which characters have tried to break from the past and reinvent themselves?
Which characters are able to come to terms with their personal past?
11. Discuss the second-to-last scene of Bound, Yasmin Keene’s funeral. How does the ceremony
bring characters together in new ways? Why does Catherine confess to Dr. Keene’s children,
“Your mom terrified me,” instead of simply reading her mother’s prepared list of Dr.
Keene’s accomplishments (209)? Why do Dr. Harding and Oliver both disapprove of
Catherine’s emotional words? How does Cattie cope with attending a funeral that is not her
12. Bound is organized by seasons, with sections of the novel unfolding over the course of one
year. What big changes occur between the fall in which the novel begins and the summer it
ends? Which characters have experienced the most upheaval, and which characters have
changed the least?
13. Consider the significance of names in the novel. Why might Misty have named her daughter
after her old friend Catherine? What does a dog’s change in name—from Misty’s “Max” to
Elise’s “Prozac”—suggest about the power of naming in Bound?
14. Antonya Nelson is an acclaimed author of short stories as well as a talented novelist. If you
have read her stories, how do they compare to Bound? What settings, themes, or moods does
Bound share with some of Nelson’s stories?
15. Discuss the meaning of the title Bound. Who is bound together in the novel—legally,
emotionally, or unwillingly? Which bonds are broken over the course of the novel, and what
new bonds are formed?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub


“One pleasure of reading Antonya Nelson is that she brings the careful language and control of literary fiction to uncontrolled, rough-and-tumble lives. Mixing the admittedly bourgeois undertaking of meticulously crafted prose with working class grit is risky — it can devolve into condescension or cartoonishness — but Nelson, like Raymond Carver, strikes a remarkable balance.” — Los Angeles Times

“This deft tale of messy, modern family life crackles with truth and originality...Nelson has a gift for sharply etched characters and dazzling lyrical prose.”—People

“Gripping…An exploration of the delicate, painful connections among us… A veteran storyteller, Nelson nearly gets away with these devices, simultaneously dodging heavy-handedness, cliché, and preciosity… Nelson explores these connections and disconnects in understated, exact, and frequently witty prose.” —Boston Globe

Author bio:

Antonya Nelson is the author of nine books of fiction, including Nothing Right and the novels

Talking in Bed, Nobody’s Girl, and Living to Tell. Nelson’s work has appeared in the New

Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, Redbook, and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies such

as Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories. She has received a

Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Grant, the Rea Award for the Short Story, and, recently, the

United States Artists Simon Fellowship. She is married to the writer Robert Boswell and lives in

New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas, where she holds the Cullen Chair in Creative Writing at the

University of Houston.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Not impressed"by Jennifer S. (see profile) 05/28/11

This book was badly in need of an editor. The story started out the many promising plot lines but delivered on none of them. I felt that using the backdrop of the BTK murders was a cheap device used... (read more)

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