REVIEW: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

 

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police – she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home – Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

My Thoughts: Cassie was a character I could empathize with, despite her flawed character, since anyone who has ever had too much to drink could picture themselves doing some of what Cassie did after the horror of her blackout evening. She doesn’t believe that she could have killed Alex…there have been no incidents of prior blackouts in which she had done anything even slightly violent.

But would anyone believe her? The fear of being held captive in Dubai kept her moving forward to get to her flight and return to the U.S. The intensity of those moments, the near misses, struggling to find a way to hide her presence in the hotel…these were the series of events that she had to get through before she was safe, and which kept me rapidly turning pages.

Even back at home, with the FBI interrogations and eventually with an attorney she hires, she is just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping to somehow get through it all.

An alternate narrative brings the character of Elena, a Russian woman somehow connected to the events of that night. Her thoughts, her plans…all add an element of mystery and suspense. An undercurrent of political intrigue and executions. As we follow Elena’s movements, we realize that she is not who she says she is.

When one considers all the grim possibilities, we realize that just getting back home will not necessarily protect Cassie, and I couldn’t stop reading, eager to find out what would ultimately happen. Unexpected twists and turns made for a hopeful denouement. The Flight Attendant reminded me that, while bad choices can change our lives forever, one can also change one’s own destiny. 5 stars.My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

Advertisements

REVIEW: UNDER THE INFLUENCE, BY JOYCE MAYNARD

51Qed8M8dTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

In the aftermath of her divorce, Helen found that a glass or two of wine each night after her son, Oliver, had gone to bed, could ease some of the pain. Soon she drank more and more to blur the edges and fill the empty spaces. What was the harm? He was asleep.

When an emergency arose one night, Helen made the decision to drive her son to the hospital, a choice that would alter her life forever. Pulled over and arrested for DUI, her bad times had just begun. Her ex-husband filed for full custody of five-year-old Oliver, and Helen’s life was truly empty at that point, with restricted visitation with her son.

In these dark and vulnerable moments of her life, Helen met up with a seductive wealthy couple, Swift and Ava Havilland, who charmed and literally swept her up into their inner circle, granting favors, asking some from her in return, and before she knew it, Helen was under their spell.

When she introduced her son to the inner circle of the Havillands during one of her visits, he, too, was pulled into the magical vortex these “friends” offered. Now their life seemed golden. Until it wasn’t.

Under the Influence is one of those stories that drew this reader in with its realistic situations and characters, reminding us that alcohol and drugs are not the only addictive elements in life, but people who are able to con and influence those around them can be just as dangerous. What happened to Helen would have lasting consequences, and when a life-threatening situation arose, she realized how quickly those charming people could dismiss and turn on her.

Sometimes in life, and in novels, there is no punishment for the truly dangerous people who can do grievous harm…but just when I thought there would be no consequences, something happened to bring about a little satisfaction to this reader. 5 stars.