The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
ISBN: 9780385538893 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385538909 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VZZ07GG (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
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.
As his younger brother’s best man, Richard Chapman thought he was doing a good thing by hosting a bachelor’s party at his home. Little did he know that one of his brother’s friends would secure “entertainment” for the night, namely stripper/prostitutes. When one of the “entertainers” goes off and kills one of the “bodyguards,” Richard’s life is turned upside down in The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian.
Richard Chapman considers himself a normal, healthy forty-year-old man. He has a job as an investment banker that he enjoys. He has a wife that he loves and a daughter that he adores. He doesn’t consider himself prudish and accepted that there might be strippers at the bachelor’s party, but he didn’t imagine that his brother or any of his brother’s friends would be having sex with the strippers in his home. Turns out the stripper/prostitutes were part of a sex trafficking ring and one of the girls feared for her life and struck first. Sonja was always considered a little off and angry, but when her captors kill another one of the captives and learn that she knew a little of the girl’s story, she assumed she was next. Her preemptive strike was to secure her life and freedom. Alexandra, another captive, accepted the idea that she might never be free. Alexandra had already spent five years “working” for her abductors and now that her last remaining family was dead, she realized she would never be allowed freedom or to return home. Now Sonja and Alexandra are on the run and Richard is being blackmailed by his brother’s friend. Can Sonja and Alexandra truly make lives for themselves after years of torture and sexual brutality? Will Richard ever regain the trust of his wife and daughter?
I found The Guest Room to be a riveting and relatively fast-paced read. Due to the weighty subject matter, namely child abduction, rape, and other brutalities toward children and teenaged girls, I had to stop reading quite a number of times. Mr. Bohjalian has tackled the subject of sex trafficking and provided a realistic face and story to go with it, albeit a fictionalized story. Mr. Bohjalian slowly reveals the story in alternating voices of Richard and Alexandra. The reader gets the chance to learn Alexandra’s backstory and it is close to impossible not to feel sympathy and pain at this child’s years of torment. Richard is, for all intents and purposes, just as much an innocent in the story as Alexandra. He feels ostracized and stigmatized by hosting a party that ended with attendance by presumed prostitutes, later revealed to be sex slaves, brought into his home as well as for the murders that occurred there. There are truly bad guys in this story, namely the abductors, sex traffickers, and the vast majority of the johns. And there are sleazy guys, namely Richard’s brother’s friend who tries to blackmail Richard and then plea bargains with the district attorney to avoid any jail time. And finally, there are the innocents, the victims of the sex trafficking, girls held in captivity for years at a time after being raped, drugged, isolated, and mentally abused. No, this isn’t a pretty picture, but then neither is sex trafficking. However, Mr. Bohjalian has taken a story that should make us cringe, but instead, it makes us want to do all that we can to rectify this growing problem. The Guest Room may not be a story for the prudish reader, but it is one that this reader can highly recommend as it is a fantastic read that deals with a horrific subject matter in a respectful and responsible manner.
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