RANCHO SANTA FE — Every seat was taken at the Winter Author Talk at the Rancho Santa Fe Library on Jan. 11. Hosted by the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild, guild members were both intellectually and emotionally moved by Chris Bohjalian, the author of “The Guest Room.”
Before Bohjalian stepped up to the podium, a light lunch was served for Guild members. Bohjalian then gave his presentation followed by a question and answer session.
After introducing himself, Bohjalian admitted how “dread” was something he wanted to convey in his newest book. This emotion has its own rhythm of trepidation.
“’The Guest Room’ I hope is rich with dread,” he said, noting how a key character, Alexandra, a young woman who is emotionally scarred, is punctuated through strength and courage.
An author of numerous books, Bohjalian said “The Guest Room” had its origins in 2013. It was at a time when Bohjalian, his wife and daughter were vacationing in Armenia. Also accompanying them was his daughter’s friend.
The friend was leaving a day before the rest of the family.
“She was on a 6 a.m. flight to Moscow,” he said. Bohjalian added, “Because I’m a dad, I told her to meet me downstairs in the lobby at 3:30 in the morning so I could bring her to the airport, get her checked in, and get her to security.”
And being a father, Bohjalian was in the hotel lobby 20 minutes early because he didn’t want this young woman to be alone. When he arrived, he noticed another young woman around his daughter’s age who was with an older man and quickly determined she was an escort.
“We’ve all seen escorts in nice hotels in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York, but this was particularly heartbreaking for me, first of all because I’m an Armenian and this was in Armenia, and secondly because I’m a dad of a daughter. And I began to wonder is there a story in a girl like this? And what is the kernel of truth that is worth expanding into a book?” Bohjalian said.
According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking was at $44 billion back in 2005. In 2014, those numbers swelled to $150 billion.
Bohjalian wanted to bring awareness to this topic while giving his brave character, Alexandra, the only first-person voice in his novel. The others characters are done in third-person. For Bohjalian, he wanted to give those who are trapped in human trafficking and sex slavery a voice.
Bohjalian went onto say that USA Today gave praise to his character, Alexandra, also known as Anahit, calling her the throbbing heart of the story.
Bohjalian described “The Guest Room” as a literary thriller about a marriage in crisis and two remarkable women. And of course, that one moment of dread where one would do anything to take back a decision that triggers something to spiral out of control.
The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild thanked Donald E. Johnson of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC for sponsoring the event.