Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

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.

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I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Guest Room will be available January 5, 2016.

This book made me really angry, but probably not in the way it was supposed to.

Richard Chapman is a happily married man and father who throws a bachelor party for his younger brother in his home. One of his brother’s friends hired strippers, but they turn out to be more than that. They’re not just prostitutes, either. They are victims of sex trafficking and they use the party as an opportunity to kill and flee their captors.

The story is broken down through the third person POVS of Richard, his wife Kristin, his 9-year-old daughter Melissa, and the first person POV of Alexandra, one of the girls from Richard’s party. I thought that Richard and Kristin’s perspectives were both very well done. I did not appreciate the perspective from Melissa, though. She really sounded nothing like a 9-year-old girl, but a grown man trying to portray a 9-year-old girl. I also didn’t really care for the passages from Alexandra’s POV. Each chapter ended with her and while it was informative and, quite honestly, horrifying, it really messed up the pace of the story. Most of it was backstory and it just didn’t seem to fit with the story of Richard dealing with the aftermath of the party. It really felt like two different books to me at times. I also didn’t like how she was written. The majority of the time she was perfectly well spoken, and then occasionally there would be sentences of broken English, to remind us that it’s not her native language, and it was just jarring. It should have all been written like that, or none at all.

I also found Richard to be infuriating much of the time. Yes, he did not actually have sex with Alexandra, but he was close to doing so – and got a lap dance, kissed her, etc. It was almost a case of insta-love in how enamored he was with her and it kind of disgusted me. He’s a forty-year-old married man and father and became kind of obsessed with this nineteen-year-old. Then later in the book, he suddenly starts to describe her with more of a fatherly affection, which kind of made the whole situation more uncomfortable. I just could not feel sorry for him or how his world started to crumble around him. I felt really bad for his wife and for his daughter. And for Sonja and Alexandra as they tried to figure out how to leave the city safely.

Overall, I just really did not care for this book. While the horrors of the sex trafficking industry is given a bit of a voice, it’s not a book that’s going to bring a lot of awareness to the problem. The inclusion of Alexandra’s backstory felt more of an interruption from the actual story instead of adding to it. I found the main character despicable which made it hard to find anything redeeming about the story. While I’m sure there will be plenty of people that would like this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars.

2 stars

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

  1. I’ve never read anything by this author, but honestly the premise of this book was a turn off and i had no interest in reading it. Now I’m convinced to stay away. Lol. Great review – sorry it was a bust!

    • I’ve read one other book by him and while I had similar issues with some of the characters, I thought it was well written and there was a nice twist. But after this book I think I’m done with him. I agree with your decision to stay away 🙂

  2. Pingback: January 2016 Recap | Stephanie's Book Reviews

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