The Red Lotus

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

Published:  March 2020 – Doubleday

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley


From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant comes a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.

The first time Alexis saw Austin, it was a Saturday night. Not in a bar, but in the emergency room where Alexis sutured a bullet wound in Austin’s arm. Six months later, on the brink of falling in love, they travel to Vietnam on a bike tour so that Austin can show her his passion for cycling and he can pay his respects to the place where his father and uncle fought in the war. But as Alexis sips white wine and waits at the hotel for him to return from his solo ride, two men emerge from the tall grass and Austin vanishes into thin air. The only clue he leaves behind is a bright yellow energy gel dropped on the road. As Alexis grapples with this bewildering loss, and deals with the FBI, Austin’s prickly family, and her colleagues at the hospital, Alexis uncovers a series of strange lies that force her to wonder: Where did Austin go? Why did he really bring her to Vietnam? And how much danger has he left her in? Set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room, The Red Lotus is a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who peddle death to the highest bidder. (publisher)

My take:  So, this novel will either turn you off within the first 25% or it will grab you and take you on a roller coaster ride of fast moving and growing viruses and how easy it would be to quickly affect the entire world population.  It’s about drug resistant pathogens, rats (lab and dumpster types), the researchers trying to stay ahead of the next pandemic, and good vs. evil. In these days of a coronavirus pandemic it was very easy to imagine all of Chris Bohjalian’s novel as nonfiction. This is a scary and anxiety producing story. Be warned.


The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

  • Title:  The Flight Attendant
  • Author:  Chris Bohjalian
  • Genre:  Thriller
  • Pages:  368
  • Pub. Date:  March 2018 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  Cassie has been a flight attendant for a major airline for almost 20 years. She’s also a functioning alcoholic which has given her a reputation among her co-workers and the few friends she has. When she works the first class section on a flight to Dubai she meets a handsome and charming American hedge fund manager who she agrees to meet later at his hotel. That decision, followed by a series of really bad decisions, sets her life on an unexpected course that is in turn horrifying and intriguing.

Told mostly from Cassie’s (unreliable) perspective the novel made me feel anxious – and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t want to risk a spoiler but I can say that if an international, of-the-moment thriller is a genre you enjoy you will want to read The Flight Attendant.


The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

the light in the ruins

  • Title:  The Light in the Ruins
  • Author:  Chris Bohjalian
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history. (publisher)

My take:  I usually include the publisher’s synopsis because I’m hard-pressed to come up with a better one on my own so be sure to read the one above. 

The author intertwined two stories (separated by 11 years) to form a compelling whodunnit. His richly detailed description of the Tuscan villa commandeered by Germans in 1944 in contrast with 1955 and the stark reality of a serial killer intent on the grisly murders of the family who owned the villa held my interest throughout. That says something because I don’t usually enjoy suspense, mysteries or crime novels. However, I do enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s novels and this one was no exception.

What resonated most for me were the choices many of the characters made and the impact or fallout of those choices. The Light in the Ruins is a story of love and loss and the ultimate resilience of the human spirit.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Title: The Sandcastle Girls

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: July 2012 – Doubleday

Hardcover – 320 pages

Synopsis: (from the book flap) When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the “Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

My take: I want to thank John Pitts from Doubleday for sending me a copy of this important novel. Important because I wonder how many people actually know about the Armenian Genocide that occurred in the early 20th century. I don’t recall learning about it in a high school world history class. This book is why I like to read Historical Fiction. Yes, I love a good story but I also like to learn.

The Sandcastle Girls was a difficult book to read because of the atrocities inflicted on the Armenian people. Despite how difficult it was to read, I cared about Bohjalian’s characters as they lived day to day, event to event, moment to moment. Aleppo came alive with the descriptions of sights, smells and sounds giving me a definite sense of the town. The scenes of atrocities both in war and the genocide are vivid. I point that out because it might be too much for some readers. That said, I don’t know how the book could not include those scenes.

In any case, the short answer to that first question – How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? – is really very simple. You kill them in the middle of nowhere.

The Sandcastle Girls page 273

The story is told by Laura, a writer and the granddaughter of the two main characters. She writes the story of her grandparents which becomes part of Bohjalian’s novel. The past and present are woven together and come to an emotional conclusion.

I recommend this book to fans of Historical Fiction and Chris Bohjalian.

Note: You can read more about The Sandcastle Girls at Chris Bohjalian’s website.

Disclosure: I received a book for review from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.