Years ago, I read Chris Bohjalian for the first time and while I remember little of the actual plot, what sticks with me is the extremely powerful punch of an ending. (I’d link to the review of Secrets of Eden, but as I mentioned, it was years ago and I was a novice book blogger found of gushing…embarrassing.)
Not all of his books that I’ve read since left such lasting memories and sadly, there is one that I’ve attempted to read multiple times and failed to finish. (Sorry, striving for honesty in 2016)
The Guest Room, however, brings back that powerful wallop of an unexpected ending and the entire book was an inescapable tour de force in making you think and putting real faces on a social issue (human trafficking, such a PC way to say sex slaves) that I think many of us have a hard time understanding.
It starts with something as banal as Richard, a mature sedate successful husband and father, agreeing to host his immature brother’s bachelor party. The idea makes he and his wife cringe a bit, but really, how bad can it be and isn’t it better than the uber-creepy over-done trip to a strip club?
Hold up, what you’re thinking happens, doesn’t. It’s worse and better at the same time. That’s the magic of Bohjalian, he gets you in the feels. You start thinking about what you would do in this situation….or that one, if your husband did this…or that, how would you respond? You start feeling the character’s pain and it isn’t always pleasant. There were times that I felt like I was watching a horror flick. You totally understand the reasons the scantily clad teenagers want to leave the spooky cabin, but you’re silently urging them not to and then you’re begging them. It wasn’t campy like a horror movie, but that urge to second guess their decisions is palatable.
The ending? I may have yelped; don’t think I cried. I’m sure I didn’t. Just like Secrets of Eden, this is a story that is going to stick with me for years and from someone that averages a book a day? That’s saying something.