“The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian

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Genre:        General Fiction (Adult)The Flight Addendant

Publisher:  Doubleday

Pub. Date:  March 13, 2018

Possible Spoiler Alert

The author, Chris Bohjalian, is one of my all-time favorite authors. I believe he is today’s Hemingway, writing American literature with an emotional force. I first discovered Bohjalian when I read his 2010 book, “Midwives.” The setting for that book is rural Vermont, known as the Northeast Kingdom (NEK). Since I spend a good deal of my year in the NEK I was delighted when I recognized the towns and the region’s customs that the author is referring to, especially when he mentions the town of Barton, which is where I summer. But even if the work was located in an unfamiliar place, I still would have loved the novel. “Midwives” blends moral, medical and political themes. “The Flight Attendant” is similar if you substitute the word “medical” with “sexual.”

Although, many of the author’s novels (and I have read them all) take place in Vermont, this one doesn’t. The sexy, flirtatious flight attendant, Cassie, lives in NYC, and her work has her traveling internationally. The protagonist is an alcoholic who is self-destructive. She is no stranger to blackouts and is accustomed to waking up in the bed of a man that she just met on the plane. But this time, when she wakes up in a Dubai hotel room, the man lying next to her is dead, she has blood in her hair, and she has no memory of what happened. Did she, or didn’t she kill him? The novel could be entitled “Confessions of a Flight Attendant,” as its filled with sex, murder, and mystery, but have no fear that you are reading rubbish; Bohjalian is too talented to write a trashy novel. And if a murder mystery is not your type of story, Bohjalian also manages to get today’s headlines into the plot, including Russian espionage, the FBI, and the CIA. His ability to weave these topics together is enjoyable. Moreover, as in all his novels, it is obvious that a good deal of research went into the writing, giving the story an authentic feel.

Unfortunately, for me, this page-turner lost most of its oomph somewhere along the way. Maybe it is because Cassie, who is now known in the news as the “Tart Cart Killer” is so self-destructive you can guess how she will sabotage any progress her lawyer makes on her case. Or maybe the surprise ending is too much of a leap for me to believe. Or maybe, and most probably, I expect the author to write a masterpiece time and time again. Although this is not my favorite of his work, I still recommend you read this book. Bohjalian is not capable of writing an uninteresting novel. He also happens to be a writer who respects his readers and reviewers. He actually, contacts me and other reviewers via the internet thanking us for reading and reviewing his work. He has been writing best sellers for over twenty years, there is no professional reason for him to do this other than that he is a nice guy who happens to be one heck of a story-teller. Enjoy the book, you will never board a plane again without wondering what your flight attendant is really like.

I received this novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my reviews at:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4793025-martie-nees-record?shelf=read  & https://twitter.com/neesrecord




“Under the influence” by Joyce Maynard

under the influence

This is a contemporary women’s novel that manages to have all the drama expected in this genre, but the author manages to keep the novel from reading like a soap opera.  The protagonist is a young woman whose mother never wanted her, and whose father she never met.  Early on she is familiar to the hard knock in life.  She is the girl in high school who nobody notices until she meets her future husband.  The reader gets the feeling that she marries him to become part of his big, tightly knit family.  When her mother-in-law enters her name into the family tree, she thinks she finally belongs somewhere, with a family that wants her.  It doesn’t take her long to realize that her husband is a cad.  She can put up with him because they have a little boy who is her main reason for living.  Still, after her husband asks for a divorce, she is devastated that his family disowns her.

She makes a nice life for herself and her little boy.  Still, the loneliness and responsibilities of being a single mom are trying.   She self-medicates with alcohol, though only after her son has been put to bed.  She finds herself in trouble when her son is sick in the middle of the night, and she races to get him to the hospital.   She is pulled over and is given a DUI.   When her now remarried ex-husband learns of this he demands full custody.  Her lawyer assures her that her ex-husband doesn’t stand a chance, because other than her recent DUI she has a spotless record.  Unfortunately, the judge in the case has a personal vendetta against drunk driving.  He informs all those in the courtroom that “Four years ago my wife of thirty-four years was killed by a drunk driver.”  She unjustly loses custody.

The story is told in the first person narrated by the heroine.  The writing feels very personal, as if it is a confession.  Even after three years of sobriety, she can only see her son for a few hours every two weeks.  She is at the mercy of her ex-husband and his moods.  This mom reads like the mother of the year (with probably one too many pages showing her complete attentiveness to being a good mother.)   The unfairness of the situation will make you cringe.  During a catering waitress job for a charity event, she meets a very wealthy, older, charismatic, and unusual couple.  The wife, who is in a wheelchair, takes a shine to this bright young woman and invites her to visit their home.  The older woman seems to take the younger woman under her their wing.  Soon our young mom is over their glamorous, art-filled home almost every day.  She feels as if they have adopted her.  Before you know it she is working for them on a philanthropic project regarding rescue dogs, which is the wife’s passion.  Her world, when not on a visitation day, revolves around them.  She is thrilled to be socializing with “the rich and famous.”  She meets the couple when she is in a very vulnerable state.   It is easy to understand how she misses that she is being used by them, sometimes as a servant.  However, the couple is so beguiling she looks the other way.  The husband is a larger than life character.  He is crude (continually talking about their amazing sex life), yet still very likable, and appears to be loyal to his blue-collar friends from his youth.  The reader can see him more clearly than the heroine as a vulgar narcissist.  Think of a male version of the legendary actress Joan Crawford in her daughter’s autobiography, “Mommy Dearest.”

The protagonist uses her friends/employers too.  Her son has been angry with her since she lost custody.  On a visitation day, she brings him to her employers’ over-the-top house, with all kinds of luxuries that a child would love, such as swimming pools and boats.  Additionally, her son adores the macho husband.  He asks “Is that guy a superhero or something?” and begins asking his father if he can spend more time with his mom.  The couple’s true nature comes out when her son witnesses an accident on the husband’s racing boat, which is the fault of his adult son.  This accident has serious consequences for a young woman.  At the hospital, where they are taken by the police, she notices that when her wealthy friends leave, they do so without saying one word to her, or her traumatized son, nor will they ever again.  They drop her, and her son, like a hot potato.  Once again, she loses another would-be family.  Soon she learns that the super rich are different.  Unlike her, they can afford the best lawyers, and buy their way out of anything.  Now she needs to make a moral choice.  She “must choose between the truth and the friends who have given her everything.”  The story ends years later when the now older mom realizes that she never needed them.  She has a family, a family of two, consisting of her and her son.

In between all of this, there is a boyfriend who offers true loyalty.  But her new friends think he is boring, for them a sin worse than a mortal sin, and she dumps him.  Personally, I feel that the boyfriend, though important to the plot’s ending (I cannot share why for it would be a spoiler) made the story read more as chick-lit.  There is another minor character that I feel did enhance the plot, who is the couple’s longtime female servant.  They betray this woman in the most brutal of ways (again, if I share it would be a spoiler.)  At the close of this story, the long time servant quietly explains to our heroine how an unthinkable immoral act can happen with the simple statement of “people tell lies.”   The book’s writing isn’t very deep but still, I enjoyed the novel.  It is a good beach read that can be thought provoking.  Would you inform on a friend who you consider to be your fairy godmother?

Find all my reviews at https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4793025-martie-nees-record?shelf=read