- - Thursday, June 14, 2018



By Chris Bohjalian

Doubleday, $26.95, 368 pages

Take a light-hearted female character, some vivid prose and a startling situation — waking up in a hotel room next to a man with a slashed throat — and that’s the chaos happening in the first few pages of Chris Bohjalian’s “The Flight Attendant.”

Uncertain of what happened — due to her heavy hand with alcohol — and panicked with reasonable doubt, Cassandra Bowden, a flight attendant, rushes out and leaves the man (for well, quite obviously) dead.

But then again who wouldn’t panic if they found themselves in this situation: “It may have been the body’s utter stillness, but it may also have been the way she could sense the amphibian cold. But then she saw the blood. She saw the great crimson stain on the pillow, and a slick wet pool on the crisp white sheets.”

Though this book may not be a tough or incredibly insightful read, it’s an easily palatable summer book that carries sprinkles of literary allusions and pop culture references while presenting sad situations that can tug at anyone’s heartstrings.

Rather than floating from one dramatized part to the next, it steadily winds down, providing just enough character details for a lovable but incredibly flawed alcoholic flight attendant often inclined to do incredibly moronic things.

The reader gets to know that despite her many flaws, which often make her seem like a caricature, Bowden is grounded and not in some ditzy la-la land. She has dealt with a troubled past, and while her current life is a mess it isn’t something that she desires. She yearns for a life with children and stability, similar to what her sister has, even though she doubts that will ever happen.

Secondary and minor characters are delicately placed, as if gently reminding the reader to keep them in mind as the book’s suspense continues to build. Since they aren’t as carefully crafted or developed as Bowden’s character, it is harder for the reader to understand their motives or relevance in some scenes.

For example, some secondary characters, such as Elena or Enrico, could have been included in more scenes and would have made the ending more powerful. Enrico is introduced so late in the novel, that he appears to be just another person wrapped up in a terrible situation.

Thankfully, however, the writing still manages to carry the plot enough to reach one final twist that not many readers would have guessed (and for that very reason, I will leave it unspoiled).

It should be noted that the book does carry another minor nuisance. At times, Mr. Bohjalian’s writing takes the reader on intricate, complicated roads before eventually winding back into a full-circle to a similar phrase or sentiment. Eventually, the narrative fits into place, but for impatient readers, like myself, it often feels like an ill-fated moment of deja vu.

But despite the moments where it feels like the same paragraph or idea is being repeated, Mr. Bohjalian still leaves a striking impression of a character’s loneliness and self-doubt that overpowers any of the narrative flaws.

Bowden is also a character of repetitive behavior, allowing lust and clouded judgment to worsen her circumstances. To avoid processing or replaying the night of Alex Sokolov’s murder — or entertain the absolute dread of considering she may be guilty — Bowden prefers to drown her sorrows with more alcohol and meet random (or maybe not so random) men when she hits her emotional lows.

Through Bowden, and less explicitly through her actions, Mr. Bohjalian tries to make sense of a modern woman who is trapped in the cycles of her own actions, while at times oblivious to the dire circumstances of her situation.

With all the pathos, Mr. Bohjalian also offers up a fair share of comedic moments. Any person dealing with the CIA would not know how to react, and as a suspect in the case, her personality leaves room for humorous interactions with more stoic or analytical characters like the CIA officials or her lawyer, Ani.

The first-person narrative also allows Mr. Bohjalian to have Bowden deal with a great range of emotional moments, from humorous to introspective to idiotic.

As a New York Times best-selling author, Mr. Bohjalian creates yet another intriguing tale that certainly earns its place on anyone’s summer reading list.

Also, it should be noted that actress Kaley Cuoco has started a production company in collaboration with Warner Brothers Television, Norman Productions, and has bought the rights to make Mr. Bohjalian’s work into a limited series. For those willing enough or interested in the mystery or thriller genre, they should plan on reading this book well before the series hype begins; It will be a well-made decision.

• Sophia Acevedo is a sophomore at the University of California, Fullerton, and a summer intern at The Washington Times.

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