The Guest Room was a real page turner. I sat up in bed reading way later than I planned once I got into this book. When I would get to the end of a chapter I’d say, just one more chapter and I’ll bookmark it for the night. That went on for a while.
The premise of the story tells us about the repercussions of a bachelor party that got waaay out of hand. Richard Chapman is the main focus. He has a foolish younger brother who is engaged to a lovely and kind woman named Nicole. Phillip, the younger brother, wants a bachelor party and wants Richard (older brother and best man) to host it.
Richard thinks if they hold the party in his elegant, very respectable neighborhood abode then it will be fairly tame. In Richard’s mind, an evening with delivered hot wings, tubs of guacamole and being in family setting should make it a more wholesome event, in spite of strippers.
But the strippers have a sorrowful background story, unbeknownst to the men at the party. The scary Russian bodyguards were not there for protection of the girls…they were their jailers. When the blonde stripper, Sonja, goes ballistic on one of the guards, stabbing him in the neck and killing him, everyone’s lives changed in that moment. Both girls flee but not before two Russian mobsters lie dead on the floor of this posh home.
What I liked was the many perspectives captured in this book. Richard’s wife, Kristin Chapman, feels betrayed and humiliated about the events unfolding on the news. Did Richard have sex with one of those women? Her now blood splattered home is on display in the newspapers on television for anyone to see. Bohjalian managed to capture a middle aged woman’s insecurities about her own body, her doubt about keeping her husband attracted, her shame to face her high school coworkers and class where she teaches….all of it is spot on. Anger, hurt, resentment and disbelief are felt as you read about each character and their thoughts.
The 9 year old daughter, Melissa, who doesn’t fully understand the complexities of sex, sensationalism and the news reports. She worries about her parents getting divorced and has feelings of anger and confusion regarding her father.
The husband, Richard Chapman, isn’t the villain one would think. (I would award that honor to his punk brother Phillip. ) Early on I came to the conclusion he was basically a very good man and husband, loving father and long suffering brother. The events of the evening changed life forever for the Chapman family.
You also get a detailed version of Alexandra’s life. She is the dark haired stripper. She is also a sex slave. Her story is interspersed with the Chapman’s and it’s very sad to read. The seedy life of sex trafficking doesn’t only happen in third world countries. Honestly, you have to read it to get a full picture of the horrific way girls are locked into such a life.
Surprising end, one I didn’t see coming.
Brilliant observational writing and dialogue.
Well done, Mr. Bohjalian.