On a lovely spring day in Paris – post-9/11 and several months after the London Underground bombings — Clare Moorhouse, the Irish-American wife of a high-ranking British diplomat, is arranging an official dinner crucial to her husband’s career. As she shops for fresh stalks of asparagus and works out the menu and seating arrangements, her day is complicated by the abrupt arrival of her son from boarding school in England and a random encounter with a man on the street, who may be a suspected terrorist. More unnerving still is a recurring face in the crowd, one that belonged to another, darker era of her life. But it can’t be him…
Like Virginia Woolf did in Mrs. Dalloway, Anne Korkeakivi brilliantly weaves the complexities of an age into an act as deceptively simple as hosting a dinner party.
An Unexpected Guest covers a day in the life of Clare, the wife of a diplomat stationed in Paris. She is the perfect wife, a gracious hostess, and a devoted mother. On that day, her many skills are put to the test, as at a short notice Clare and her husband have to host an important dinner, one that may make or break his career. Clare's day will be busy as the task is challenging but she is confident she can swing it. After all, Clare has had two decades of practice.
As the day unfolds, Clare is tested in many unexpected ways. A dark secret from her past comes back to haunt her, a stranger needs her help, her son is in trouble, and a long-lost love threatens to derail her carefully arranged existence. Suddenly, the choices Clare has to make are no longer just about a diplomatic dinner. At first, Clare tries to postpone things - she wants to stay focused, to organize the event perfectly because her husband deserves her full support. Her son's drama can wait, she should not get involved as a witness, she can't afford to waste precious minutes pondering the past. Will Clare live up to her reputation as a decent person who always does the right thing? Or will she take the easy road, one of a spectator and not a participant?
Anne Korkeakivi has penned an irresistible story of many layers. The city of Paris comes to life in vibrant color, much more than a background to Clare's day. The complexity of Clare's character and her dilemmas are masterfully entwined with political turmoil and the intricacies of diplomatic life. An Unexpected Guest is a remarkable debut novel, and I can't wait to see what Ms. Korkeakivi will write next.
An Unexpected Guest is new today from Little, Brown, a division of Hachette Book Group.
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