Summary and book reviews of The Law of Similars by Chris Bohjalian

The Law of Similars

by Chris Bohjalian

The Law of Similars
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1999, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2000, 255 pages

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Book Summary

A page-turning examination of the fragile threads that hold people together when the worst that can happen really does...and the unexpected and luminous ways we are made well.

From the best-selling author of Midwives comes a startlingly powerful story of three people whose lives are irrevocably changed by illness, healing, and love.

Two years after his wife's sudden, accidental death, a Vermont deputy state prosecutor, Leland Fowler, finds that the stress of raising their small daughter alone has left him with a chronic sore throat. Desperate to rid himself of a malady that has somehow managed to elude conventional medicine, Leland turns to homeopath Carissa Lake--who cures both his sore throat and the aching loneliness at the root of his symptoms.

Just days after Leland realizes he has fallen in love with the first woman who has mattered to him since his wife, one of Carissa's asthma patients falls into an allergy-induced coma. When Carissa comes under investigation, straight-arrow Leland is faced with a moral and ethical dilemma of enormous proportions.

Set against the ongoing clash between conventional and alternative medicine--between what we know science can offer and the miracles that always seem to be just beyond our reach--The Law of Similars is a haunting and deeply atmospheric tale.

Chris Bohjalian is known for the compassion and grace that mark his characters as well as for the sheer storytelling power that propels his fiction. With The Law of Similars, he has offered something more: a page-turning examination of the fragile threads that hold people together when the worst that can happen really does...and the unexpected and luminous ways we are made well. It is a remarkable achievement.

Excerpt
The Law of Similars

For almost two full years after my wife died, I slept with my daughter. Obviously, this wasn't Abby's idea (and I think, even if it were, as her father I'd insist now on taking responsibility). After all, she was only two when the dairy delivery truck slammed into her mother's Subaru wagon and drove the mass of chrome and rubber and glass down the embankment and into the shallow river that ran along the side of the road.

In all fairness, of course, it wasn't my idea either. At least the two years part. I'd never have done it once if I'd realized it would go on for so long.

But about a week after Elizabeth's funeral, when Abby and I were just starting to settle into the routine that would become our life, I think the concept that Mommy really and truly wasn't coming back became a tangible reality in my little girl's mind--more real, perhaps, than the lunch box I packed every night for day care, or the stuffed animals that lined the side of her bed ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Chris Bohjalian's The Law of Similars. In this riveting novel, a lawyer risks everything to protect a young woman whose practice of alternative medicine leads to a legal inquiry and raises profound questions about the links between hope and hubris, love and deception.

In his widely acclaimed, controversial bestseller Midwives, Bohjalian described the trial of a midwife who is accused of manslaughter when a home birth goes tragically wrong. In The Law of Similars, Bohjalian weaves a compelling tale around homeopathy, an area as steeped in controversy and ambiguities as midwifery. Once again, he creates a world in which passionate beliefs and ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Boston Globe

While Bohjalian did a good job depicting the psyche of a 14-year-old girl in ''Midwives,'' he seems to have hit his literary stride with Leland Fowler, whose voice is intimate, credible, and sure in illuminating the shadows of his soul. Readers who tend to be interrupted should think twice before starting this novel. Once opened, ''The Law of Similars'' is a hard book to put down.

New York Times Book Review - Liz Rosenberg

...[F]ast-paced and absorbing. Few writers can manipulate a plot with Bohjalian's grace and power.

Kirkus Reviews

Bohjalian (Midwives) 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.

Publishers Weekly

As he proved in last year's Midwives, Bohjalian is adept at examining social and moral issues fraught with ambiguities. Here, again, he focuses on a fallible protagonist whose lapse in ethical judgment is motivated by love and need.

Reader Reviews

Cindylou

Try This....
You wish the characters in this novel lived next door. They are open and easy to know. You'll experience their highs and lows -- and wonder if you'd have made the same decisions. The love story gets a bit too erotic for a bit, but over all the ...   Read More

Anonymous
Linda
I was never convinced that this story was being told from the point of view of a fourteen year old girl. Her vocabulary was so preppy that it made it even more ridiculous to try and believe she was a child of hippy parents. How many fourteen ...   Read More

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