Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Quick review for a somewhat quick read. “The Guest Room” is only the third book by Chris Bohjalian that I’ve read, and for the most part, it’s an emotional, thrilling read about some very difficult stories and experiences. The book trades between four perspectives: Richard, the work-invested, practical husband who hosts a bachelor party that goes horribly arwy; Richard’s wife Kirstin, who struggles with the aftermath of events that happen in their home, their daughter, and finally Alexandra, a young woman sold into sex slavery who struggles to stay alive and crosses paths with Richard and his family that fateful night.

It takes a bit for the book to find its momentum, but once it does, it takes off running to showcase the very intimate experiences and emotional upheavals of the characters involved. The mystery itself is compelling and keeps you on your toes as to what happened the night of the murders of the two bodyguards and showcasing not only Alexandra’s horrifying experiences as a sex slave, but also explores the difficulties Richard faces with his wife and daughter in betraying their trust, as well as fending for himself socially and legally. There were definitely times when I was frustrated at the characters for their actions/reactions to things, but the narrative explores their motivations and interactions so well, it’s hard not to feel compelled by it even in the measure of controversial and difficult subject matters. I especially found myself shaken by turns in Alexandra’s experiences for how horrifying they were and the losses that were noted in her life.

I somewhat guessed the path of the ending after a certain point, but that didn’t deter me making the march of the book to its conclusion. I thought the book did a decent job of tying those threads together, if a bit quick in progression. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite work from Bohjalian, but I appreciated the experience.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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