Bohjalian’s latest ripped-from-the-headlines cautionary tale concerns a very poorly planned bachelor party.
Richard Chapman, a middle-aged investment banker with a lower Manhattan firm, makes one mistake that will upend his life: he hosts a bachelor party at his suburban Bronxville home for his feckless younger brother, Philip, manager of a boutique hotel in Chelsea. Richard’s wife, Kristin, a good sport about the impending high jinks, is spending the weekend at her mother’s in Manhattan with their 9-year-old daughter, Melissa, to allow the boys to be boys. Although he was expecting a stripper, Richard definitely failed to anticipate that the entertainment procured by Philip’s hotelier friends would actually be two possibly underage Russian girls and their menacing bodyguards, who forbid the men to take cellphone pictures but encourage everything else. Soon the high jinks are devolving into an outright orgy. As the men take turns with one of the girls, Sonja, the other, Alexandra, takes Richard up to the guest room, where he declines to do more than talk. Alternating with the narratives of Richard and his family is Alexandra’s chronicle of her enslavement. After her mother dies, the talented young dancer is tricked by a trusted family friend, who arranges for her to travel from her native Armenia to Moscow—for a ballet audition, she thinks. Instead, she's raped and then trafficked in Russia until she's 19, when she is removed, along with Sonja and another girl, Crystal, to New York. At the party, Sonja, who knows that the guards, Pavel and Kirill, murdered Crystal, fatally stabs Pavel with one of Kristin’s butcher knives. Kirill is shot and killed in the fray, and the girls escape. From there the plot thickens with blackmail threats, Internet defamation, employment discrimination, and marital meltdown, as Richard compounds his original error with even more implausible lapses in judgment. Character development takes a back seat in this exposé of human trafficking, and Bohjalian’s treatment often wavers between prurience and polemic.
A compulsively readable train wreck.