Katie Moretti’s Binds That Tie tells of Chris and Maggie Stevens, whose marriage has been tested over the years, over extramarital affairs and miscarriages. They share a complex past riddled with infidelities and feelings torn asunder; their marriage has been tested and, as far as Maggie is concerned, it has been found wanting. Desperately. When Maggie, at the end of her rope and insatiable with the need for attention, entertains the harmless flirtations of a stranger on a night while out on the town with friends, she unwittingly sparks a chain reaction that will plummet her life into the deepest, muddiest terrain it’s ever encountered; and she’ll take not only her marriage, but her closest and most complicated relationships with her. Maggie and Chris will be tied together, not by the bonds of matrimony, but by the conspiracy to cover up a murder. And as they try to find a way through their dangerous circumstances, new and old feelings will arise, and the battle lines of love and truth will be drawn. While I found in Binds That Tie the palpable drama and unexpected twists I had been hoping for, the uniqueness of Moretti’s story and the singularity of her characters take the novel to an even fresher, more complex territory. Both Maggie and Chris harbor staggeringly complicated personal struggles, and the narrative practically vibrates with the energy of their sometimes dark, sometimes desperate natures. Maggie is at times fiercely devoted to her own agenda, and she seems far less concerned with the consequences of her actions than readers might expect her to be. There’s something unapologetic about her need for attention and her need for love – even if she might hurt others in her quest to achieve it. As the complexities of her relationships with her husband, her sister Miranda, and her brother-in-law Jake are revealed, the reader is swept up into an unflinchingly suspenseful story of trusts forged and shattered. Likewise, Chris is at once well-meaning and quietly dangerous, physically intimidating with a need for control.
While Chris and Maggie are capable of some pretty unlikable deeds, and they make some unlikable decisions, the apex of the novel's appeal is the way that they themselves don't fit steadily into the category of being unlikable. It's always an act of daring when an author writes characters with an unsympathetic bent, but even unsympathetic characters can reach out and grab the reader when they're emotionally drawn. There’s a humanness to Maggie and Chris that kept me riveted to their story, desperate to know how it all worked out for them – and if they would indeed be a “them” by the final page.
Moretti’s prose has a way of feeling exciting and new as it weaves through the convoluted workings of Maggie and Chris’s story. Her writing is smart and poetic enough to render extra touches of drama without feeling contrived. She also reveals the twists of the story in layers, explaining the unfolding circumstances gradually; her execution allows her reader to feel in the dark just long enough to excite an insatiable curiosity, but briefly enough to avoid leaving us in confused impatience. From the sweeping drama of the courtroom to the heart-rending emotional drama of a marriage fraught with struggle, Moretti beautifully captures the unprecedented ups and downs of her characters’ lives and their deeply human needs and emotions. Binds That Tie is a superb story from a deeply compelling voice in fiction.