Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

ReviewI literally hovered the mouse over the 3 and 4 star rating while I gathered my thoughts on this novel. There's no doubt Chris Bohjalian has mastered the art of grabbing his reader with an enticing storyline that proves impossible to walk away from. Bohjalian proved this trick of the eye withClose Your Eyes, Hold Hands. That novel, similarly to The Guest Room baited me with a tale of a good person engrossed in a surreality that hooks the reader from page one.

The Guest Room is an easy quick read that focuses a lot on the way lives unravel after an investment banker, with a rather cushy life named Richard Chapman, agrees to host his younger brother's bachelor party. This bachelor party is seemingly standard by bachelor party standards until the two men who served as bodyguards are murdered. The purity of Richard's suburban life and reality becomes jarringly compromised.

Richard is forced to face his part in the whole debacle. His job is compromised along with his integrity, marriage, and sanity. He's forced to pick up the pieces of his life after the bachelor party. He can no longer be the good guy he seems to be. I mean... really... Richard Chapman is a stand up guy. My only concern as I got father into the story was that RIchard would be fine.

The Guest Room doesn't simply focus on how a bachelor party gone wrong can ruin a life, it touches on the reality of human trafficking. Bohjalian gives a voice to one of the sex slaves and does an awesome job at making her real. Sure her story is a little cliche but... it's always hard to ignore the first person narrative of a young, beautiful girl forced into a world outside of her dreams of being a ballerina... being anyone other than who she's forced to be.

Really I enjoyed The Guest Room but sadly, I became bored. Although Bohjalian had me on edge and looking forward to the next "development", I lost interest in the whole human trafficking subject as a whole. Also I lost sight of if this was a suspenseful novel or anything else. I read a lot of suspenseful thrillers. I read enough to know that the hint of danger is not fa behind. Bohjalian threw enough suspense into the mix that the lack of developing that story was actually maddening. I may be a minority in saying that I didn't care how his wife felt about finding an empty condom wrapper or if his daughter would ever forgive him. I didn't care because in real life, the answers may not be simple but they are always finite. The wife's weakness was unbearable just as much as Richard's initial inability to fight for the family he seemingly cared so deeply for.

What kept me reading The Guest Room was the idea that someone had to pay. Not all the characters could be as perfect as Bohjalian painted them to be... unless I missed that point. That bad shit happens to good people. Bad shit happens to girls with dreams of becoming a ballerina. Shit happens to a man who really loves his wife yet feels inexplicably drawn to a girl he's met once, and could have possibly killed someone in cold blood.

I guess I'm over my rant and would simply like to say I ultimately enjoyedThe Guest Room. I can honestly say I was hooked. Even when I wanted to give up on this novel for the lack of developed excitement, I stayed on board and trudged along. Bohjalian's latest will appeal to those who like their suspense toned down and digestible without offending the masses encompassing a chick-lit appeal. Overall, The Guest Room will make anyone happy they didn't check in as a guest on this roller-coaster ride.  ***

Copy provided by Netgalley via Doubleday Books

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