“Wingspan” by Chris Bohjalian

Genre:            General Fiction
Publisher:    Knopf Doubleday Publishing
Pub. Date:    March 26, 2019

Mini Review

The award-winning author Chris Bohjalian has written his first play, “Wingspan.”  The one-act play has been published as a novella.  The tale revolves around two female flight attendants.   In 2018, Bohjalian had a bestselling thriller, “The Flight Attendant.”   This is not a sequel as one might suspect.  The novella is clearly not a thriller.  Once the reader has finished the last page, the title’s metaphor will be clearly understood. “Wingspan,” demonstrates that Bohjalian is masterful at writing concise dialogue that makes the reader simultaneously laugh and cry along with his characters.  You will meet a young, newly trained flight attendant, who just happens to have a fear of flying.  And then there is her older, wisecracking, experienced coworker whose sassy manner can hide her intelligence.  By the end of the flight, the older woman knows the younger woman’s secrets.  This story may be sparse but is plentiful with feeling in tune to the #MeToo movement.

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“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

 

 

 

“The Sleepwalker” by Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, and I believe he is one of our greatest storytellers.  I am always excited when he publishes something new.  This book, his latest, is marketed as a mystery thriller.  But Bohjalian is such a gifted writer I prefer to say that this is a literary thriller (his novels always improve my vocabulary even though I need to stop reading to look up the meaning of a word). This tale reminds me of an old foreign film, meaning that the pace is slow (unlike most thrillers), but worth the wait.   Our location is a small Vermont town.  I love when he writes stories located in rural Vermont, since I live there in the summers and get a kick out of local references.  The book begins in early 2000.  Remember our Y2K fear when we were all waiting for computers to crash?   Or when there were no smart phones or social media?  This is important to the plot, as the story is about a missing woman, and how much harder it was just 17 years ago to search for a missing person.

In a family of four, father, mother, and their 21-year-old and 12-year-old daughters–it is the mother who goes missing.  The mother also happens to be a sleepwalker, of which the whole town is aware.  The mother and the rest of the family are ashamed of her public sleepwalking.  The tale raises provocative questions about what goes on in our minds during the eerie period when we are not really sleeping and not really awake.  I learned much about sleep disorders, and our unconscious sexual state.  I actually googled the phenomenon to make sure Bohjalian wasn’t making them seem more bizarre than they actually are. He didn’t.

The 21-year old daughter is the narrator throughout the story.      She is an amateur magician.  It took me awhile to understand that her magic has a connection to her mom’s magical state of sleepwalking.  Once her mom goes missing, she does not return to college.  Instead she stays home and takes on the role of housewife and mother.  I found this to be unnerving.  The author chooses to leave the reader wondering if she was being a supportive family member, if she was in a depressed state, or if her new responsibilities where making her feel delusional.    I felt it was a bit of all three.  Again, I thought about her job as an amateur magician, and the mysterious and delusions of magic.

I was a tad disappointed when the elder daughter begins a probably unethical relationship with a detective on the case.  And as the family secrets are slowly revealed, I found it hard to believe that she would not end the relationship with him (if I explain more here it will be a spoiler).  But I tried to remember that this character was only 21-years-old, at an age when most of us are not thinking clearly about love affairs.  Still, I didn’t think the affair was needed in the plot.  There were so many suspicious persons and reasons that may have been involved in wanting her mother to disappear or be killed.  I felt the romance made this superior novel a bit more like a classic detective story yarn.  But maybe that is just me as I do not care for the genre of contemporary romance.  All in all, the author gives us another knockout story with Hitchcockian suspense.  The ending had me going back to see if I could find the clues that I missed.

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

“The Guest Room” by Chris Bohjalian

guest-roomI always enjoy Bohjalian’s works.  In this novel he tackles a tough subject to read: sex trafficking of innocent young girls. The story revolves around a decent, married, upper middle class American man who allows his not so decent brother to throw a trashy bachelor party in his home. The party turns into a nightmarish orgy ending with the murder of two Russian mobsters but this author is much too talented to write a trashy book. The narrators alternate between the husband, his stunned wife, their confused nine year old daughter and the heartbreaking story of the enslaved girl. It is clear that Bohjalian did his research educating the reader with a horrible inside view of sex slavery and how surprisingly easily it can become part of our own social fabric. As in Bohjalian’s previous books “The Guest Room” is a page turner with richly written characters that draw you into the story while raising social awareness on the unthinkable without being melodramatic.