The Third Hotel 
Laura van den Berg, 2018
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
224 pp.

In Havana, Cuba, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband’s death—and the truth about their marriage—in Laura van den Berg’s surreal, mystifying story of psychological reflection and metaphysical mystery.

Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum.

He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead.

Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move.

As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way.

The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—state of Florida, USA
Education—B.A., Rollins College; M.F.A., Emerson College
Awards—(see below)
Currently—lives in Cambridge Massachusettes

Laura van den Berg is a novelist and short fiction writer. In addition to her debut novel, Find Me (2015) and The Third Hotel (2018), she has published two volumes of short stories, The Isle of Youth (2003) and What Will the World Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (2009).

Other short stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Freeman’s, The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and One Story, and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her criticism and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB Magazine, and

Van den Berg also teaches writing. She has taught at Columbia University, the Fine Arts Work Center in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Bread Loaf Conference. Currently she is a lecturer at Harvard University and Warren Wilson College.

She and her husband, writer Paul Yoon, live with their dog in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rosenthal Family Foundation Award (American Academy of Arts & Letters)
Bard Fiction Prize
Pushcart Prize
O. Henry Award
Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia and the author's website. Retrieved 8/24/2018.)

Book Reviews
There's no denying [van den Berg's] skill at rendering this material; her sentences, at their best, are extraordinarily lucid.… These descriptive passages may come off to some readers as clutter, but they serve to ground a story that sometimes feels elusive and vague.The novel’s intellectual and philosophical excursions are less successful, to my mind, than its concrete descriptions.… Read [The Third Hotel] as the inscrutable future cult classic it probably is, and let yourself be carried along by its twisting, unsettling currents.
J. Robert Lennon - New York Times Book Review

There’s Borges and Bolaño, Kafka and Cortázar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg. The acclaimed author of two story collections and a novel, van den Berg has always been good, but with The Third Hotel she’s become fantastic—in every sense of the word.… The fantastic plot is elevated by van den Berg’s fantastic writing and unique twists of language.… These sentences aren’t flourishes of showoff; nothing unoriginal slips by in this flawless novel… so much subtextual lava is coursing under the surface of every page of The Third Hotel that the book feels like it’s going to erupt in your hands.
Randy Rosenthal - Washington Post

Laura van den Berg is an artist of the uncanny. As with some surrealist painting, devour her work quickly and the trick will not snag.… Clare’s eerie perceptional wobbles are conjured beautifully by van den Berg, who sees like a painter and narrates like a crime reporter. To read The Third Hotel sometimes feels like following a character based on Joan Didion sinking deeper into a universe whose laws were written by Patricia Highsmith.… We are anchored by loss, set free by love, cliches tell us. What, this exquisitely written book asks, if it’s the opposite? In doing so van den Berg drives home an inversion far scarier than any zombie film.
John Freeman - Boston Globe

It's a quicksilver novel—just when you think you have a possible grip on its plot and meaning, it slithers out of grasp. The Third Hotel works its magic at the level of the subconscious, where nightmares are made.
Jenny Shank - Dallas Morning News

Reading Laura van den Berg's disquieting new novel, The Third Hotel, is akin to walking out of a dark movie theater into bright sunlight. Part of you is still living in a cinematic dreamscape. The real world is what's imaginary.… [T]he writing is lovely and fluid. She is comfortable with ambiguity, and The Third Hotel isn't intent on resolution. It reminds me of another hotel, that one in California, where "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Haunting.
Nancy Pate - Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Third Hotel contains all of the ingredients for a classic work of horror.… Not every author can make a character both fly through supernatural events and remain grounded in a place the way van den Berg does with Clare. The strength of van den Berg’s storytelling comes from Clare’s attempts to solve the mystery of why Richard has hunkered down in a different country, layered with grief from back home that continues to haunt her. She’s a “final girl” whose denouement horrifies in a modern, bloodless way.
Bethanne Patrick - Time

Van Den Berg doesn't do neatness. She does elegance. She writes with off-kilter beauty and absolute relaxation; the less peaceful a sentence should be, the more peaceful it is.… The Third Hotel is a novel that operates in symbols and layers, which means you can read it however you like. There's no one ending, no right answer, and as a result, it will take away your internal compass. It will unmoor you, send you wobbling around your house in a haze. It will slide some eels under your skin. My recommendation? Let it. We can all stand to learn some new truths.
Lily Meyer -

Eerie and uncanny, layered and sharp.… Though subtly drawn, what it means to be a woman becomes just as central to The Third Hotel as the mystery of Richard’s reappearance. Powerful and atmospheric, van den Berg’s novel portrays a haunting descent into grief and the mysteries we can’t quite solve while advancing a thought-provoking exploration of marriage, misogyny, and the loneliness that lurks within unwavering privacy.
Lauren Sarazen - Los Angeles Review of Books

A twisty exploration of grief and perception as well as the ways in which we contribute to our own undoing.
Julia Pierpont - Oprah Magazine

Strange, unsettling, and profound from start to finish, The Third Hotel is a book teeming with the kind of chaos that can only emanate from the mind. It could be fairly described as a meditation on grief, or marriage, or travel; fresh insights on each materialize regularly, at enviable levels of nuance.… [van den Berg] gets under your skin and hits bone. Hers is a terror tale as mercurial as life, veering between the grisly and the gentle.… The Third Hotel ultimately probes one woman’s reaction to the senseless.
David Canfield - Entertainment Weekly

[M]ysterious and engrossing.… Toying with horror tropes and conventions …van den Berg turns Clare’s journey into a dreamlike exploration of grief. This is a potent novel about life, death, and the afterlife.
Publishers Weekly

A surreal meditation on grief and loss.… Atmospheric descriptions of Cuba, and references to horror-film tropes… are integrated throughout, providing additional layers of richness. Verdict:… this novel has a dreamlike quality that resists narrative structure and logic. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Library Journal

Brooding, often-surreal, funerally bemusing …van den Berg's entrancing, gorgeously enigmatic tale dramatizes the narcosis of grief.

The line between the real and the imagined is forever blurry, and the result of all that ambiguity is both moving and unsettling.Gorgeously haunting and wholly original; a novel that rewards patience.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers Talking Points to help start a discussion for THE THIRD HOTEL … than take off on your own:

1. In the first sentence of the novel, Clare wonders: "what was she doing in Havana?" She considers telling anyone who might recognize her, " I am not who you think I am." Or even, "I am experiencing a dislocation of reality." Why is she experiencing such uncertainty about her identity as well as her purpose for visiting Cuba? What do you think she means by "a dislocation of reality"? And, finally, what do you think all of this suggests about Clare's sense of herself?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Does your initial perception of Clare change during the course of the novel?

3. What were your initial thoughts when Clare sees and follows her husband. Did you consider it/him a ghost, an impostor, or a hallucinatory vision?

4. As the novel progresses, what do we learn about the state of Richard and Clare's marriage? How would you describe their relationship?

5. Do you find yourself impatient with Clare's negation of herself and her surroundings: she wishes to "be free of past and future, of memory and feeling." What about her penchant, for example, of turning off all light and sound in hotel rooms; the fact that she never enters the theater for the movie screening, or that she doesn't correct the person who mistakes her for someone else? Is this Clare's way of expressing grief. If so, do you find her sympathetic?

6. Follow-up to Question 5: One character tells Clare she is deranged. Another says that the grieving are dangerous, like "injured animals with fearsome claws, bloodied and pushed into a corner." What do you think of Clare's mental/emotional state?

7. Why might the author withhold so much information from readers: the unopened white box found by her husband's body; what her father said to her, which left her unable to speak in full sentences; the red notebook, which she slams shut; the unopened envelope from her father; phone calls that are silent on the other end or filled with static? Recall, Clare's quip to a new friend, "Americans like straight answers" and "simple stories."

8. Follow-up to Question 7: Do the author's revelations at the end satisfy your questions?

9. How would you describe this book: a police procedural, a ghost story, a thriller, a philosophical query into self-identity and death? All, or none, of the above?

10. The professor of quantum physics tells Clare that "We are all erasing ourselves a tiny bit at a time." He goes on to say, "Drinking, fantasies, secrets, denial, hysteria, double lives, suicide, ennui, schemes. Those are just a few of the ways we disappear." Why do we want to erase ourselves? And what does these observation suggest about the thematic concerns of The Third Hotel?

11. What was your experience reading Laura van den Berg's novel? Were you intrigued or mystified? Enthralled or irritated? J. Robert Lennon, the New York Times reviewer, while somewhat critical, predicted The Third Hotel will become a "cult classic." What do you think?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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Other People's Houses 
Abbi Waxman, 2018
Penguin Publishing
352 pp.

A hilarious and poignant new novel about four families, their neighborhood carpool, and the affair that changes everything.

At any given moment in other people's houses, you can find … repressed hopes and dreams … moments of unexpected joy … someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband

*record scratch*

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors' private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton's wife is mysteriously missing, and now this...

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane.

But that's a notion easier said than done when Anne's husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families—and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—England, UK
Education—University College London
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

Abbi Waxman is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. She has three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and one very patient husband. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
[A] “gaggle of middle-class white people”—and all of the comedy, drama, and quotidian details that make up their lives.… Hilarious ruminations about child-rearing, shopping, and other parents give this broad appeal.
Publishers Weekly

Waxman is a gifted storyteller with an impressive talent for penning realistic dialog for adults and children: no easy feat. For fans of fast-moving contemporary humorous fiction about women and families. —Samantha Gust, Niagara Univ.Lib., NY
Library Journal

[A] far-reaching topic… sprinkle[d] with spicy dialogue.… Frances is equal parts warmth and snark as she considers her friends and neighbors through the lens of TMI. [For] those who like to turn pages quickly without sacrificing complex characters.

[C]harming yet provocative.…Waxman is a master at purveying the wry humor that rides just below the surface of even the tough times. An immensely enjoyable read.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. In this book the neighborhood plays an important role. What other situations create this kind of community, and how does seeing people every day change your relationship to them?

 2. The central character, Frances Bloom, is someone who likes to help, because it makes her feel useful. Do you know someone like this? Do you find it easier to help or be helped?

 3. Frances and Michael have a very happy but not very romantic marriage. Do you think that this will eventually drive them apart?

 4. Anne Porter has an affair and nearly destroys her marriage. How important is sexual fidelity? Is it the most important element in a marriage? Can trust be rebuilt after a betrayal of this kind?

 5. How much do children understand their parents’ marriage? How hard is it to maintain privacy in a relationship once you have children?

6. Sara and Iris are experiencing communication problems in their marriage, although it’s very strong. Have you gone through something similar, where communication breaks down for no apparent reason, and then becomes difficult to reopen?

7. Anne felt she was someone else in her affair, that it was something just for her. Ava also mentions a strong desire to be her own person, driving her own choices. How hard is it to balance a sense of self with responsibilities within a family?

8. Frances and Ava are navigating their changing relationship as Ava becomes more independent. Did you struggle against your parents or one parent in particular as you were becoming an adult? How do you think the experience of adolescence has changed since you were a teenager?

9. The title, Other People’s Houses, alludes to the impression one gets of someone just by looking at them. How much can you really tell about someone based on their home, or the way they dress? Is appearance an expression of character, or armor?

10. Bill and Julie Horton are dealing with a challenging time in a very private way. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of approaching it this way?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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Enchantress of Numbers:  A Novel of Ada Lovelace
Jennifer Chiaverini, 2017
Penguin Publishing
448 pp.

The fascinating life of the world’s first computer programmer Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—a woman whose exceptional contributions to science and technology have gone unsung for too long.
The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth.

Estranged from Ada’s father, who was infamously "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage.

Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination — or worse yet, passion or poetry — is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.
When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage — brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly — will shape her destiny.

Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world.

All the while, she passionately studies mathematics — ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman — falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.
In Enchantress of Numbers, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing — a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Ohio, Michigan, and Southern California (USA)
Education—B.A., University of Notre Dame; University of Chicago
Currently—lives in Madison, Wisconsin

Jennifer Chiaverini is an American quilter and author. She is best known for writing the Elm Creek Quilts novels. In 2013, in a departure from her quilting novels, she published Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

Growing up one of three children, Chiaverini lived in Ohio, Michigan and Southern California. She loved to read all genres, but ultimately fell in love with historical fiction. "My parents indulged my storytelling. I’ve wanted to write since I was young." The desire to quilt came later.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she is also a former writing instructor at Penn State and Edgewood College. She lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

In addition to the seventeen volumes of the Elm Creek Quilts series, she is the author of four volumes of quilt patterns inspired by her novels, as well as the designer of the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
Cherished Reader, Should you come upon Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini…consider yourself quite fortunate indeed…Chiaverini makes a convincing case that Ada Byron King is a woman worth celebrating.
USA Today

[A] fascinating homage.
Real Simple

While Lovelace may not have received the credit she was due in her own time-period, Chiaverini’s novel stands as a fitting ode to one of the greatest women in the history of science.
Harper's Bazaar

Chiaverini writes captivating stories of forgotten women in history, including that of the young math and science genius Ada Lovelace, responsible for writing the world’s first-ever computer code.… Chiaverini brings [Ada Lovelace] to life around you.

Ada finally achieves her goals, going on to develop … the first computer, though it took the world nearly a century to recognize her achievements. Verdict: After a slow start, Chiaverini deftly draws a compelling study of a complicated woman. —Cynthia Johnson, formerly with Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA
Library Journal

[An] exquisite biographical novel.… [A] quintessential example of the form.… Wholeheartedly recommended for historical-fiction fans and STEM enthusiasts.

[An] emotionally neglected child became a…profoundly talented and imaginative mathematician. [The] novel … charts Ada’s discovery of her own talents…. A compelling yet heartbreaking homage to the mother of computer science.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. How do you think the loneliness and isolation of Ada’s childhood and her mother’s jealousy of the nurses Ada loves affect her as she grows into adolescence?

2. What is it about flight that captivates Ada’s imagination? The scientific aspects of Flyology fascinate her, of course, but what else could Ada’s desire to create wings for herself represent?

3. How does her status as the daughter of the renowned poet Lord Byron shape Ada’s life? What is it like growing up in the shadow of his brilliance and infamy? What similarities and differences do you see between Ada’s experiences and those of the children of celebrities today?

4.  Why do you think Ada’s mother was so fearful of Ada’s imagination and "the influence of [her] bad Byron blood?" Why does she forbid her daughter to indulge in fairy tales, poetry, and make-believe play, even though she herself writes poetry?

5. The first time Ada visits Babbage’s home, she is introduced to his dancing automaton, which arrests her attention. She draws closer to it, "longing to trace the lines of the dancer’s face with my fingertip. Even her eyes seemed alive, full of mischief and imagination." Why was she so fascinated by the Silver Lady?

6. After an argument with her mother, Ada muses, "I realized that the only way I could escape her control any sooner would be to marry." What are Ada’s expectations for marriage? Are they fulfilled? Does she enjoy more independence or less as a married woman, or are her circumstances essentially unchanged?

7. Ada mentions that Mrs. Somerville, though very accomplished in science and mathematics, was barred from the Royal Society because she was a woman. How is Ada affected by this? Does she feel the loss of this exclusion? Why or why not?

8. Why do you think Ada was so enthralled by Babbage’s inventions, both the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine? How does Ada’s poetic and imaginative mind help her understand their potential even more so than Babbage himself?

9. At various periods throughout her life, friends and family worry that Ada is dangerously obsessed with mathematics and science, often describing her pursuit of knowledge as a "mania." Ada fiercely rejects this label. Do you agree with Ada, or do you think her friends and family had some cause for concern? Why or why not?

10. Compare and contrast Ada and Lord King’s courtship to her mother and Lord Byron’s and their early years of marriage.

11. Ada’s love for her mother wavers between reverence and resentment. How does this affect Ada’s own childrearing?

12. All her life, Ada has been told that her foremost duty is to marry and produce an heir. Why is this not enough for her? Why is she driven to create a "Great Work" of mathematics or science as her legacy? 
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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The Flight Attendant 
Chris Bohjalian, 2018
Knopf Doubleday
368 pp.

A powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: a flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man—and no idea what happened.

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, already 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 to 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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—White Plains, New York, USA
Education—Amherst College
Awards—Anahid Literary Award, 2000; New England Book Award, 2002
Currently—lives in Lincoln, Vermont

Christopher Aram Bohjalian, who goes by the pen name Chris Bohjalian, is an American novelist. Bohjalian is the author of nearly 20 novels, including New York Times bestsellers Midwives, Secrets of Eden, The Law of Similars, Before You Know Kindness, The Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Night Strangers.

Bohjalian is the son of Aram Bohjalian, who was a senior vice president of the New York advertising agency Romann & Tannenholz. Chris Bohjalian graduated summa cum laude from Amherst College, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. In the mid-1980s, he worked as an account representative for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York.

He and his wife lived in a co-op in Brooklyn until March 1986, when the two were riding in a taxicab in which the driver refused to let them out of the car for 45 minutes, ignoring all traffic lights and stop signs. Around midnight, the driver dropped them off at a near-deserted street in front of a crack house, where the police were conducting a raid and Bohjalian and his wife were forced to drop to the ground for their protection. The incident prompted the couple to move from Brooklyn; Bohjalian said, "After it was all over, we just thought, "Why do we live here?" A few days later, the couple read an ad in The New York Times referencing the "People's Republic of Vermont," and in 1987 the couple moved to Lincoln, Vermont.

Early career
After buying their house, Bohjalian began writing weekly columns for local newspaper and magazine about living in the small town, which had a population of about 975 residents. The Concord Monitor said of Bohjalian during this period, "his immersion in community life and family, Vermont-style, has allowed him to develop into a novelist with an ear and empathy for the common man." Bohjalian continued the column for about 12 years, writing about such topics as his own daily life, fatherhood and the transformation of America. The column has run in the Burlington Free Press since 1992. Bohjalian has also written for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

Bohjalian's first novel, A Killing in the Real World, was released in 1988. Almost two decades after it was released, Bohjalian said of the book, "It was a train wreck. I hadn't figured things out yet." His third novel, Past the Bleachers, was released in 1992 and adapted as a Hallmark Channel television movie in 1995.

In 1998, Bohjalian wrote his fifth book, Midwives, a novel focusing on rural Vermont midwife Sibyl Danforth, who becomes embroiled in a legal battle after one of her patients died following an emergency Caesarean section.

The novel was critically acclaimed and was selected by Oprah Winfrey as the October 1998 selection of her Oprah's Book Club, which helped push the book to great financial success. It became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Victoria Blewer has often described her husband as having "a crush" on the Sybil Danforth character. In 2001, the novel was adapted into a Lifetime Movie Network television film starring Sissy Spacek in the lead role. Spacek said the Danforth character appealed to her because "the heart of the story is my character's inner struggle with self-doubt, the solo road you travel when you have a secret."

Later career
Bohjalian followed Midwives with the 1999 novel The Law of Similars, about a widower attorney suffering from nameless anxieties who starts dating a woman who practices alternative medicine. The novel was inspired by Bohjalian's real-life visit to a homeopath in an attempt to cure frequent colds he was catching from his daughter's day care center. Bohjalian said of the visit, "I don't think I imagined there was a novel in homeopathy, however, until I met the homeopath and she explained to me the protocols of healing. There was a poetry to the language that a patient doesn't hear when visiting a conventional doctor."

The protagonist, a father, is based in part on Bohjalian himself, and his four-year-old daughter is based largely on Bohjalian's daughter, who was three when he was writing the book., Liz Rosenberg of The New York Times said the novel shared many similarities with Midwives but that it paled in comparison; Rosenberg said, "Unlike its predecessor, it fails to take advantage of Bohjalian's great gift for creating thoughtful fiction featuring characters in whom the reader sustains a lively interest." Megan Harlan of The Boston Phoenix described it as "formulaic fiction" and said Bohjalian focused too much on creating a complex plot and not enough of complex characterizations. The Law of Similars, like Midwives, made the New York Times bestsellers list.

He won the New England Book Award in 2002, and in 2007 released "The Double Bind," a novel based on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

In 2008, Bohjalian released Skeletons at the Feast, a love story set in the last six months of World War II in Poland and Germany. The novel was inspired by an unpublished diary written by German citizen Eva Henatsch from 1920 to 1945. The diary was given to Bohjalian in 1998 by Henatsch's grandson Gerd Krahn, a friend of Bohjalian, who had a daughter in the same kindergarten class as Bohjalian's daughter. Bohjalian was particularly fascinated by Henatsch's account of her family's trek west ahead of the Soviet Army, but he was not inspired to write a novel from it until 2006, when he read Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, Max Hastings' history of the final years of World War II. Bohjalian was struck not only by how often Henatsch's story mirrored real-life experiences, but also the common "moments of idiosyncratic human connection" found in both. Skeletons of the Feast was considered a departure for Bohjalian because it was not only set outside of Vermont, but set in a particular historical moment.

His 2010 novel, Secrets of Eden, was also a critical success, receiving starred reviews from three of the four trade journals (Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly), as well as many newspapers and magazines. It debuted at # 6 on The New York Times bestseller list.

His next novel, The Night Strangers, published in 2011, represents yet another departure for Bohjalian. The is both a gothic ghost story and a taut psychological thriller.

He has written a weekly column for Gannett's Burlington Free Press since February 1992 called "Idyll Banter." His 1,000th column appeared in May 2011.

Personal comments
In a 2003 Barnes & Noble interview, Bohjalian offered up these personal comments:

I was the heaviest child, by far, in my second-grade class. My mother had to buy my pants for me at a store called the "Husky Boys Shop," and still she had to hem the cuffs up around my knees. I hope this experience, traumatizing as it was, made me at least marginally more sensitive to people around me.

I have a friend with Down syndrome, a teenage boy who is capable of remembering the librettos from entire musicals the first or second time he hears them. The two of us belt them out together whenever we're driving anywhere in a car.I am a pretty avid bicyclist. The other day I was biking alone on a thin path in the woods near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, and suddenly before me I saw three bears. At first I saw only two, and initially I thought they were cats.

Then I thought they were dogs. Finally, just as I was approaching them and they started to scurry off the path and into the thick brush, I understood they were bears. Bear cubs, to be precise. Which is exactly when their mother, no more than five or six feet to my left, reared up on her hind legs, her very furry paws and very sharp claws raised above her head in a gesture that an optimist might consider a wave and guy on a bike might consider something a tad more threatening. Because she was standing on a slight incline, I was eye level with her stomach—an eventual destination that seemed frighteningly plausible. I have never biked so fast in my life in the woods. I may never have biked so fast in my life on a paved road.

I do have hobbies—I garden and bike, for example—but there's nothing in the world that gives me even a fraction of the pleasure that I derive from hanging around with my wife and daughter.

He lives with his wife and daughter in Lincoln, Vermont, where he is active in the local church and the Vermont theater community—always off-stage, never on.

Writing style
Bohjalian novels often focus on a specific issue, such as homelessness, animal rights and environmentalism, and tend to be character-driven, revolving around complex and flawed protagonists and secondary characters.

Bohjalian uses characteristics from his real life in his writings; in particular, many of his novels take place in fictional Vermont towns, and the names of real New Hampshire towns are often used throughout his stories. Bohjalian said, "Writers can talk with agonizing hubris about finding their voices, but for me, it was in Vermont that I discovered issues, things that matter to me."

His novels also tend to center around ordinary people facing extraordinarily difficult situations resulting from unforeseen circumstances, often triggered by other parties. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
Bohjalian delivers on the high bar he has set for himself. Readers will cheer on Cassie, staying up too late to piece together what happened, and enjoy the quirky, interesting facts he’s woven into the narrative. Did you know death by misadventure is what coroners write on death certificates “when people died doing something monumentally stupid”? Well, now you do, thanks to Chris Bohjalian.  READ MORE …
Abby Fabiaschi, AUTHOR - LitLovers

Filled with turbulence and sudden plunges in altitude, The Flight Attendant is a very rare thriller whose penultimate chapter made me think to myself, "I didn’t see that coming." The novel—Bohjalian’s 20th— is also enhanced by his deftness in sketching out vivid characters and locales and by his obvious research into the realities of airline work.
Maureen Corrigan - Washington Post

Bohjalian twists the tension tight and keeps the surprises startling.
Tom Nolan - Wall Street Journal

An expertly turned thriller… An assured novel about reckoning not just with some ruthless bad guys, but private sadness as well… [Bohjalian]’s developed a graceful hand at thriller mechanics, smoothly shifting from Cassie’s private paranoia to the intricacies of spycraft and mercenaries to the public tabloid sensation she’s become. He’s back-loaded the story with twists, from ones that were hinted at early to left-field surprises. And the brisk and busy ending is a fireworks show of redemption, revelation and old-fashioned gunplay.
Mark Athitakis - USA Today

The author provides enough twists for a roller coaster fan... The beauty of the book is that, along with the politics of the plot, Cassie’s humanity comes through...the last 100 pages turn tense as you try to follow the unexpected but believable surprises Bohjalian has in store and answers whether Cassie can find salvation.
Amanda St. Amand - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The stakes couldn't be higher (literally)as Cassandra pieces together a mystery while working 40,000 feet above ground in Chris Bohjalian's gripping The Flight Attendant. Read it before Kaley Cuoco stars in the upcoming series!

[A] killer set-up, and Bohjalian initially maximizes the dual plot lines.… Bohjalian’s less successful in avoiding cliches or in making an espionage subplot plausible.… [F]ans will still have fun.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) Caught in a downward spiral, [Cassie] must brace for impact. After so many lies and devastating choices, she's almost given up on being a good person. Will she get a chance at redemption, or will her fate be decided by the murder in Dubai?  —K.L. Romo, Duncanville, TX
Library Journal

(Starred review) Bohjalian is an unfaltering storyteller who crosses genres with fluidity, from historical fiction to literary thrillers…a read-in-one-sitting escapade that is as intellectually satisfying as it is emotionally entertaining.

As Cassie's addiction becomes the primary focus, the intricate plotting required of an international thriller lags.The moral overcomes the mystery in this sobering cautionary tale.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. What traits do Cassie and Elena (“Miranda”) have in common, and what are their fundamental differences? Though they were raised worlds apart, how did their parents teach them to conceal their true selves? To what extent do both women manage to deceive themselves as well?

2. How did your opinion of Alex Sokolov shift as his life story unfolded? At first, what did you think was the motive behind his murder?

3. How is Cassie’s dependence on alcohol linked to her dependence on lying? What is at the root of her cycle of intoxicated euphoria followed by self-loathing?

4. What accounts for the very different paths Cassie and her younger sister, Rosemary, take in life? How does their relationship compare to the one between you and your siblings?

5. What does The Flight Attendant say about the distinction between bad decisions and destiny? To what degree are Cassie and Elena in control of their misdirected choices?

6. Discuss the men in Cassie’s life. What keeps her from experiencing real intimacy? What’s different about Enrico?

7. In this novel, what did you learn about the cyber world and the real world after the fall of the Soviet Union? Does technology give you hope or make you worry?

8. When Cassie compulsively pilfers items while traveling and then wraps them up as gifts, is she simply trying to live on a limited budget, or does it say something deeper about her relationship to possessions and the images she wanted her loved ones to have of her?

9. As the flight attendants in the novel work a variety of international routes, what do their experiences prove about the common threads that exist in all of humanity, no matter where we are?

10. What does it take for Cassie to own up to her missteps? Before she met Alex, had she ever harmed anyone but herself?

11. As you read the FBI reports, what did you discover about information and power? Would you have followed the advice of attorney Ani Mouradian, telling the truth to the FBI?

12. Are the novel’s characters either cold-blooded or compassionate, or are they some combination of each? Were you good at predicting which characters were the bad guys?

13. Even though she has logged thousands of miles in her career, Cassie still marvels at the miracle of flight when she sees a plane passing overhead. How did the novel enhance your appreciation for air travel and flight crews? What elements of the job surprised you the most? If you were in Cassie’s line of work, which routes would you bid on most often?

14. In the novel and in your own experience, what does it ultimately take to become the person you always wanted to be?

15. What are the hallmarks of this author’s storytelling? How was your experience of The Flight Attendant enhanced by the Bohjalian novels you’ve previously read?

(Questions issued by publishers.)

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Happy People Read and Drink Coffee 
Agnes Martin-Lugand, 2014 (trans., Sandra Smith, 2016)
Hachette Book Group
256 pp.

The international phenomenon described as Under the Tuscan Sun set in Ireland, about a recent widow who moves to the Irish coast and begins a tumultuous but ultimately healing relationship with her neighbor, a brooding Irish photographer. Also out now: the bestselling sequel, Don't Worry, Life is Easy.

Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary café in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, the world as she knows it disappears.

One year later, Diane moves to a small town on the Irish coast, determined to heal by rebuilding her life alone-until she meets Edward, a handsome and moody photographer, and falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance.
But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland for good? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane's story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
After six years as a clinical psychologist, Agnes Martin-Lugand now devotes herself to writing full-time. She is also the author of Happiness Slips Through My Fingers and the sequel to Happy People Read and Drink Coffee (2014) — Don't Worry, Life Is Easy (2015). (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Agnes Martin-Lugand has…the gift of making us love a charming yet flawed heroine.
Elle (France)

A heartbreaking story of love and loss that will twist readers up in knots.… Essential for any foreign literature or women's fiction collection.
Library Journal

Think of every cliched rom-com starring a beautiful woman who falls in love with a brooding man, and you can predict which beat will be hit next in the endlessly derivative Happy People Read And Drink Coffee.

Martin-Lugand's sparse but emotionally forceful style, aided by Smith's translation from the original French, catches the sweeter moments between two people embittered by loss.

Discussion Questions
The below questions were graciously submitted to LitLovers by Shelley Holley, M.L.S of the Southington (Conn.) Library. Thank you, Shelley!

1. What did you think of the book?

2. Did you think the title was misleading?

3. What do you think of Diane and Felix’s relationship, do you think he does too much for her?

4. Are Diane’s parents realistic about wanting her to return their home?

5. Was Diane’s decision to go to Ireland a good idea?

6. What do you think about Jack and Abby relationship with Edward?

7. How did you like the way the author described Mulranny, did it make you want to visit?

8. Do you think Diane’s feelings for Edward are real or just a way to get over her loss?

9. Is Diane’s return to Paris smart or should she have stayed in Ireland?

10. Do you think she can be happy again back in Paris?

(Questions by Shelley Holley, M.L.S. at the Southington, Conn., Library. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution to both Shelley and LitLovers. Thanks.)

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