Tag Archives: Chris Bohjalian

‘The Sleepwalker’ by Chris Bohjalian

Two books I read by this author were fabulous (Midwives and The Double Bind) and since reading those, I have been trying to find others of his that are just as good. Alas, this one wasn’t, and neither was The Guest Room, although both are intriguing beach reads, just not as good as the other two. The ending of this one was completely unpredictable which is always fun (this novel is chock-a-block full of red herrings). Bohjalian  is a good writer and can craft a compelling enough story, his novels covering a wide range of topics–you never quite know what you are going to get with this author.

The topic of this novel is sleepwalking, which was interesting to delve into. Sleepwalking is more common in childhood than in adulthood (17% of children sleepwalk in their early years–I did twice) but very few continue to do so as adults. The author focuses mostly on ‘sexsomnia’ a disturbing ‘arousal disorder’ (pun intended) where the adult sleepwalker engages in sexual encounters without waking up–a rather rare occurrence I would think, but interestingly has been used in criminal defence of rape.

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Their mother has done bizarre things in the night before. As oldest daughter Lianna peels back the layers of the mystery she asks herself: Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her husband was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where is the body? Why does the detective on the case know so much about her mother and why is he now interested in her? Why does her sister have jet-black hair when everyone else in the family is blonde?

‘The Guest Room’ by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest RoomstarstarstarThis riveting story reminded me that I should read more from this author. Midwives and The Double Bind are others of his that I have thoroughly enjoyed. In The Guest Room a bachelor party goes horribly wrong; two men lie dead in a suburban living room, two young girls are on the run, and a marriage is coming apart at the seams.

This fast paced story telling has a purpose–to keep us reading despite the violence and discomfort of the topic and make us aware of a very important issue. Slavery is not a thing of the past. Vulnerable young girls are regularly kidnapped into the sex trade and unless we understand the market that drives it and hear from the victims who undergo this human rights violation, the topic remains under wraps. Bringing traffickers to justice is a hard thing, but the more people are made aware through reading novels like this, the better chance we have as a society to do something about it. Even though parts of this book are hard to read, I was hooked from the very first page and it did not let me go till the very end.

The book shows how exploitation systems work, how victims can feel ashamed and inadequate even though they have done no wrong, and highlights the kinds of people (both men and women) who drive the sex trade industry. There are many victims in this cautionary tale and the evil done by a few is far reaching.