A kind of postmodern Grand Hotel, in which Power (The Good Remains, 2002, etc.) wanders through the public and private rooms of a Washington hotel where “people come, people go, nothing ever happens.”
The Royale Hotel in Washington, DC, caters to its guests, but it’s more of a home to its employees. Many of them are immigrants, like the Iraqi plumber Jedra Abdullah, who roams the building night and day searching for leaks to plug. Jedra is secretly in love with Phyllis, the all-American girl who works the front desk, but he’s too shy to take a step in her direction—until they find themselves both trapped in a broken elevator. The Iranian engineer Khouri Karimi, who stays at the hotel while attending a conference, is equally bewitched by his chambermaid Patricia, a single mother who lives with her young son and takes poetry classes at the Y. Their relationship (Patricia eventually agrees to marry Khouri) seems just as unlikely Jedra and Phyllis’s, but the Royale appears to be full of odd couples: Even Lloyd Bostitch, the obsessive, humorless and thoroughly gay manager of the hotel’s cocktail lounge falls into bed with one of his new waitresses and discovers what it’s like to have his heart broken by a woman. The strangest pairing of all brings hotel chef Leslie Downing into the arms of reclusive tenant Daniel Espirito, who lives by himself in the hotel penthouse and believes that he’s back in his childhood home in Brazil. Leslie agrees to cook some Brazilian dishes for Daniel and succeeds so well that he becomes convinced that she’s the family servant who kidnapped, seduced and initiated Daniel into a voodoo cult when he was a little boy. This delusion turns into a Proustian pleasure of the highest order for Daniel—and, weirder still, turns out to fulfill Leslie’s sexual and career fantasies alike. Someone’s gotta tell Expedia about this place.
An eerie tale that could have been ponderous and flat but, instead, goes completely over the edge and becomes outrageous and delightful.