The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian (5 out of 5)
You’re going to laugh when I tell you this. I know it. It’s OK. This book came recommended to me by the mailman at the bookstore. He belongs to a book club and had gone through a list of stinkers that he couldn’t get through. This book was the first in 9 months worth that he got hooked on right away. He admitted that although the story was told from multiple viewpoints (a format he normally couldn’t tolerate), he was quickly drawn into the narrative. Same is true with me! I don’t mind multiple people telling the story, however. Maybe because I tend to want to hear all sides of stories in everyday life? My only previous experience with Chris Bohjalian was “Sandcastle Girls”, a book that I read quickly and enjoyed. I didn’t devour (nom nom nom) that book. I DID devour this one! It’s recently out in paperback, and I can say it would be an excellent book club pick. And it’s going on the recommend shelf the minute I go back to work.
Richard agrees to host a bachelor party for his soon-to-be wed brother Philip. Philip enlists the help of his smarmy best friend Spencer in procuring the evening’s entertainment. Richard’s wife and daughter go away for the weekend and stay with her mom. Two Russian girls, accompanied by two bald bruiser bodyguards (similar to pimps), are the entertainment. Much revelry and drinking lead to much nudity and the two girls getting busy with one another. More money changes hands, and Philip and Richard each go off with one of the girls. Richard goes with Alexandra to his and his wife’s bedroom and Philip and Sonja to the guest room. Philip does commit a crime, Richard comes close but does not, although he comes close and does actually connect with Alexandra on a deeper level. While that’s going on, Spencer is up to no good. The nefarious deeds come to an end and the ladies go to leave, but Sonja goes crazy, bad things go down, and two people wind up dead. The two girls flee, leaving two bodies behind and one hell of a mess for Richard to explain to the police, his family, and his job after word of the double murder gets out. He’s put on leave with pay, his marriage to Kristin is in dire straits after he tells her what happened and her trust is challenged, his 9- year old daughter Melissa is confused by the change in the family dynamic and all of the questions her classmates are asking her and why her dad is staying in a hotel, his brother’s engagement is kaput and all he can do is talk about how hot the girls were, and that smarmy pig’s spleen Spencer shows him pictorial evidence that appears more incriminating than it is..which would be the death knell to Richard’s newly tottering marriage. Of course, he wants money and begins blackmailing Richard. Richard gets a lawyer and does his best to begin rebuilding his life, thinking that the girls have fled and are gone for good. He also finds out that all is not what it seemed, and that the escort service was being investigated. One of the girls surfaces in one part of town, and Richard is forced to come to the scary conclusion that this is far from over. The story builds to a shocking chain of events and an ending that I had to re-read twice because I couldn’t believe what had just happened. You can’t help but feel for Richard and the characters in the book, because Bohjalian paints them with such humanity that you feel as if you know them intimately. He also manages to weave together a very real issue going on in the world today and tie it into a compelling narrative. “The Guest Room” is out now in paperback, brought to us by the kind folks at Vintage (an imprint of Penguin Random House).