The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian
Published January 5th 2016 by Doubleday
Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss
When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.
In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat.
I read The Guest Room in a day – not a stay at home reading day – granted a ridiculous train commute added to my reading time – but I worked all day and found time to finish. That’s how compelling this book was! Chris Bohjalian tweeted at me when I said I was in shock, “My books walk a tightrope between heartbreak and hope. Never sure on which side they will end up.” That’s a pretty accurate summation of my feelings at the end of this one. Heartbroken and hopeful both.
Richard is kind of an idiot for offering to host his brother’s bachelor party in his family home – and from that bad decision many others play out. Another friend arranges for strippers to be at the party, but they didn’t expect the strippers to be sex slaves who kill their bodyguards and run. I feel like this book could have been turned simply into a simple mystery with a lot of action and gore – it is what makes Bohjalian so great that this was an extremely emotional read while still tense and compelling.
We follow Richard, his wife Kristin, and their young daughter Melissa as they each try to deal with what happened and recenter their family after such a violation of their home – both by Richard and by the murder. We also follow Alexandra and learn how she went from an Armenian school girl to a victim of an international slavery ring. Her story is all the more heartbreaking when you realize how disgustingly common it is. Alexandra’s story pulls no punches – the language is graphic and her life is violent. This was a strong juxtaposition to the chapters from the point of view of Richard’s spoiled 9 year-old. What very different lives for these girls. I was really surprised at how invested I felt on both sides of the story though – I worried about Richard’s future nearly as much as I worried about Alexandra. And oh his poor wife! How do you stay married?! What do you do? Clearly I’m definitely still reeling from this book and the ending. This would be a great book club book – I very much need to talk it over with someone!
This was so incredibly different than Bohjalian’s last book Close Your Eyes Hold Hands – which I also really enjoyed and also left me emotionally all over the place. Last, if you check out his website you can read about the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking and the work they do – check it out!
Thank you Doubleday and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.