This week I read An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi. It is the book club selection at St. Stephens for the month, and we'll be discussing the book this morning. I'm anxious to see what the other ladies think about the story.
An Unexpected Guest pays homage to Virginia Wolf's masterpiece Mrs. Dalloway. Both plots occur within the twenty-four hours of prepping and hosting a dinner party, and both protagonists are middle age and have a secret. I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway in years, but from what I can remember, Clarissa Dalloway was way more vapid and silly than Clare Moorhouse, the protagonist in An Unexpected Guest.
Clare is the American wife of a British diplomat assigned to Paris. They have two teenaged sons in boarding school in the UK, and there is a possible transfer and promotion on the horizon to Ireland. Clare's heritage is Irish, so one would think that she'd be over-the-moon about the transfer, but she's horrified because she's been harboring a secret since college. Clare participated in an IRA money-run from Boston to Ireland in the eighties, and the money was most likely used to kill innocent people during the IRA-led skirmishes during this time. Of course she was coerced into transporting the money by her handsome young Irish lover named Niall whom she never heard from after she delivered the money. Niall was killed shortly after the delivery, and Clare never knew how the money was spent, so she assumed the worst.
Clearly the narrative includes this backstory as well as the story of how Clare met her husband, Edward. Korkeakivi did a very good job weaving the past into the present, and I was able to suspend my disbelief when Clare stumbles upon a Turkish terrorist while out running errands for the party. Later that day in a news bulletin on the TV Clare recognizes this same terrorist who's been accused of and arrested for assassinating a French government official outside of Versailles at the time when Clare was talking to him. The question is whether or not Clare will do the right thing for this man regardless of his supposed connections and past, and whether or not the added scrutiny on her will reveal her skeletons in the closet.
What was truly amazing is that the important dinner party went off without a hitch with all the drama going on....including their youngest son Jamie's arrival after his suspension from school. I truly thought that Clare was a cool multi-tasker, but she made a point to be a human being and express her love and appreciation for those close to her including her staff.
Overall I liked this book, and it's amazing to me the difference twenty-four hours can make in our lives if we have courage to face and overcome the failings of our youth.
What did you read this week? Please share!
Until next time...