by Chris Bohjalian
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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.
Opening one of Chris Bohjalian’s novels is like opening a present. Each is unique and masterfully written as he shares everything from suspense to war-torn lovers. The Guest Room takes us to the quiet suburbs of Westchester NY, where a bachelor party ends with a double homicide and far-reaching consequences. Skillfully written and engaging I slipped in and read until the end.
Richard Chapman lives in the suburbs of Westchester, NY with his wife and their daughter. There life is one I could readily identify with. They are content, happy and enjoying a quiet life where Wednesday night’s highlight is popcorn and a Disney movie in their den. Bohjalian begins the story with Richard’s perspective as we learn about the events that unfolded the night of the murders. It was captivating and felt realistic despite the night of debauchery.
The bachelor party is for Richard’s younger, wilder, snot of brother. Be warned, you will quickly draw lines in the sand defining characters you like, can forgive and those you want to back over with your truck. Bohjalian will have you understanding these characters, their flaws and their struggles. He makes you sympathize, forgive and question all while loathing others. The night’s entertainment was two strippers accompanied by their Russian bodyguards. Things quickly get out of hand, but nothing prepares them for the girls stabbing and killing their bodyguards. The author bought the scenes to life vividly without making me squeamish. While mistakes were made and lines were crossed, nothing felt farfetched, and he was able to make their actions feel genuine.
As we meet the girls, the author introduces us to the voice of Alexandra, a dark-haired Russian beauty who as a child dreamed of being a prima ballerina. Through her voice, we learn about human trafficking. I thought the author did a wonderful job of sharing her psyche and allowing us entry into this seedy world. It was chilling, dark and disturbing. I connected and felt for Alexandra and her young friends. Now every time I see a spam mail for Russian girls my heart skips a beat.
The story is told from several perspectives, and broken into chapters. Those of Richard and Alexandra are the most prevalent, but we also get the voice of Richard’s wife and his young daughter. The Guest Room shares the consequences of that fateful night. It was captivating, felt realistic and would translate brilliantly for film.
Bohjalian is a master storyteller and The Guest Room is a perfect example of his writing. I devoured this in a single day and found each perspective as fascinating as the last. He exposes the characters as he sheds light on their emotions, decisions and actions. The ending is climatic, with twists and surprises before leaving us with a ray of hope.