Chris Bohjalian is one of my very favorite authors, so I was more than thrilled to get his new novel through Net Galley for review.
Here’s the description via Net Galley:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes the spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room; two women are on the run from police; and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.
When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother’s friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard’s life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him 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. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.
Normally I would say that I have little to no sympathy for married men who get themselves into trouble at bachelor parties with strippers and prostitutes, but this poor guy in this story– I really felt sorry for him. I could completely imagine something like this happening in real life, with a party going from “typical” to “tragic” to “terrifying”.
I identified strongly with his wife (a teacher), who found her comfortable, sheltered world of suburban pleasantry turned upside down. As she tries to protect their young daughter from the media and smuttiness of the situation, she struggles with forgiving her husband and wonders whether she can trust him (or anyone) again.
Much of this story is told from the narrative viewpoint of Alexandra, one of the girls at the party, who is basically a captive sex slave. Her life is a harsh, gritty, day-to-day existence with her abductors and a few other girls. Her voice is quite distinct.
I could not put this book down. The end took me by surprise, but all the way through I had this horrified fascination with how things were progressing and wondered how everything would turn out. I have to say that I think that Chris Bohjalian is one of the most versatile and gifted writers creating today. Each book I read by him is so riveting, so well-done, and so different from the others. He certainly does not write to a formula. His characters stay with you afterwards and his writing is top notch. I usually am reading three or four novels at once (depending on my mood) and his is always head and shoulders above the rest.
Plus, anything I ever see with him in it — Facebook, interviews, etc. — he seems like an extraordinarily nice guy!
Don’t miss this one, coming out this month. If you like a harsh but realistic read, that is unforgettable and well done, then you will like THE GUEST ROOM.
Thank you for my review copy!