Rebecca struggles for freedom. She wants to get rid of her burned skin--a constant reminder of how freakish she looks. She remembers her first "so-called cosmetic surgery... At age eleven-and-half. Yes, sir. Cosmetic. Because nobody ever died from looking hideous." (p. 13)
And she wants to get rid of her time-consuming and emotionally-draining responsibility for Joy. Rebecca, not their father, is the one who makes sure Joy gets to work. Rebecca is the younger sister who sticks up for her big sister when Joy is called a "retard." Their father, Rebecca concludes, is his own god.
One evening Joy urges Rebecca to come folk-dancing with her.
"I'll hold your hand," Joy says. "I'll never leave you."
That's what I'm afraid of sometimes. I don't want us to be like a binary star system--circling each other forever. (p. 6)Rebecca wants desperately to go to medical school so she can return to India and help impoverished children. Hand in hand with this desire is her yearning to fling off the burden of always watching over Joy.
Rebecca helps Joy become more independent which relieves her of some of the responsibility she inherited after their mother's death. But as a result, Joy spends more and more time with a man from work and gets pregnant. Although Joy feels letdown by her boyfriend who wants no part of being a father, she quickly becomes attached to her unborn child. Rebecca sees the baby as one more obstacle to her leaving home for medical school and takes Joy to an abortion clinic.
At the abortion clinic Rebecca removes the ultrasound gel from Joy's belly and remembers her burn treatment.
They soaked me in a warm tub and my dead skin would peel off. What didn't come off had to be scrubbed off. They'd hold me down and rub away the stinking flesh. The nurses always said they knew I didn't have inhalation injuries because of my strong lungs. I wonder how I survived as I scrape the paper towel over Joy's beautiful belly one last time. She doesn't realize how lucky she is the pregnancy is not permanent. She can return to her normal life after this crisis is over. I have not been so fortunate. The massive burns have changed me and my life forever. I'm not even the same person I used to be. (p. 94)
Joy rejects abortion--much to Rebecca's and their father's disapproval. But gradually, Rebecca changes her mind as the unborn child becomes more real to the family. The three return to India to visit a beloved grandmother. In the familiar country of her birth, Rebecca thinks about why her mother put her up for adoption. After she considers the possible scenarios she concludes, "Whatever the cause she didn't want me. But at least she didn't deny me my life." (p. 165)
The dichotomy between Rebecca's high intelligence but deformed body, and Joy's simplistic thinking yet voluptuous body runs throughout the book. An additional thread is the mystery of the events surrounding Rebecca's accident. The reader discovers bits and pieces of what happened when Rebecca was 11--but the true story is not revealed until close to the end.
This beautifully written story shows a realistic portrayal of a young adult facing many personal, family, cultural, and moral dilemmas. The satisfactory ending--including the father's change of heart and accepting responsibility for Joy's future--will leave the reader feeling hopeful for Rebecca, Joy and her baby, and their family.
In our present socio-political climate, I applaud Vijaya Bodach for her brave pro-life position. I hope Bound will be a meaningful tool that counselors will use with young women experiencing an unwanted pregnancy.
Next week I'm interviewing Vijaya about the backstory to Bound. Leave a comment this week and I'll enter your name once. Leave me another one next week and you'll be in twice. Winner will be chosen on February 8th. Please leave me your email address if you are new to my blog.