The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
After reading Catherine's (The Gilmore Guide to Books) glowing recommendation in an Instagram post, I decided to request a copy of this one and give it a try; the blurb sounded interesting and I was looking for something different to read after Nonfiction November and my brain-training reads before the race. I've never read any of Chris Bohjalian's work, even though I know he is a very popular author; it sounds like this may be a departure from some of his earlier material but, since I am not able to make that comparison, I'll leave it to those of you who've experienced some of his other novels.
This is a plausible tale and if you are already disgusted by the age-old tradition of bachelor parties, and the debauchery that often coincides with those events, this book is not going to make it any better for you! I'm not suggesting that the main character is without fault, but I really felt some compassion toward Richard. This poor guy hosts a bachelor party for his younger brother; he doesn't plan it, he just tells the organizers that they can have it in his home. The event goes terribly awry, and this man is left to explain the gnarly details of this to his wife, daughter and the investment bank by which he is employed; it's a horrible situation and I was drawn in immediately.
He put down his phone and gazed out the window at Times Square. His room was on the eighteenth floor. He decided he would give almost anything to back in time. Two days. That was all he wanted. He wondered who among the thousands of people out there right now was going to screw up as badly as he had twenty-four hours ago.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, though, and Bohjalian really surprised me with the addition of a separate story line involving the two young women who provided entertainment for the bachelor and his guests; two young women who, as is turns out, are providing these services under extreme duress. I soon learned that these women are prisoners in a very small world that is so much different than the one that was taken away from them.
If we were ever actually free, what were we supposed to do? Suddenly wake up and be bank tellers? Nurses?
What I enjoyed most about this novel is the fact that, in my opinion, Bohjalian shares both sides of this story with relative objectivity; as a reader, I was able to empathize with both Richard and Alexandra (one of the victims of sex trafficking) equally and without judgment. In addition, I loved the combination of family drama, suspense and mystery all tied together; I had trouble putting this one down and there was definitely a surprise at the end that I was not expecting.
If this story sounds intriguing to you, I would highly recommend that you give it a try; the combination of two storylines, great characters and relevant material will have you breezing through this one in no time.