Wednesday 9 March 2016

The Guest Room

Finished March 8
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian, read by Mozhan Marno and Grace Experience

Bohjalian's books are always thought-provoking and surprising, and this is no exception. Here, Richard Chapman has done his younger brother a favour and hosted his bachelor party at his home in Bronxville. Richard's wife Kristin and 9 -year-old daughter Melissa are staying at Kristin's mother's apartment in Manhattan for the weekend. Richard figured that having the party at the house would tone it down in nature, although he did expect his brother's best friend Spencer, who did a lot of the planning, would likely hire a stripper.
What he didn't expect was that there would be two strippers, or that they openly offered a lot more than stripping, or that they would come with large Russian men to mind them. He drank more than he should and went to the guest room with one of the girls, Alexandra, but he could have done worse than he did. What no one expected was that one of the girls would take a knife to one of the Russians, or that the other Russian would be shot and the two girls would take off into the night in the SUV they came in.
Richard is in shock when he calls Kristin from the police station in the middle of the night to outline what has happened. Their house is a crime scene, and he has betrayed her trust. Their relationship is in a place he never imagined it would be. Richard's employer, a conservative investment bank, wants to distance themselves from the scandal, and just when Richard thinks it can't get worse, it does.
Alexandra too is in shock, She had no idea the night would end this way, and the girls have no real plan. Now they are desperately trying to stay out of the attention of both the police and the Russians. As she tells her story of being brought into the world of human trafficking, the methods used to manage her and her fellow captives, and her complicated naivity and knowledge, you will likely get as angry as I did.
One of the two narrators tells Alexandra's story. The other tells the story from Richard, Kristin, and Melissa's point of view.
With the increased attention on human trafficking in the news, this book is timely. The emotional reality of the book is strong and well done.

For a look at human trafficking in real life, read Invisible Chains by Benjamin Perrin.
For other novels with human trafficking as part of the plot, see here.

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