The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Maybe it was because of the hauntingly enigmatic cover page with a title that was both realistic and alluring associated with the popular image of the profession: Glamour, Romance, and Adventure in the high skies of the world separating the profession from its terrestrial counterparts. Or maybe it was because I had once wanted to become a flight attendant myself. But above all of these speculations, I had never imagined myself enjoying a contemporary fiction until I found The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian upon reading the excerpt of the book; that it’s actually a thriller about a lone woman on the emotional run for her life tangled in a web of international intrigues and personal intricacies unraveled in the progress of the story, which compels the reader to stay tuned for each next chapter.
The story begins when the protagonist Cassandra (“Cassie”) Bowden, a mid-thritish flight attendant wakes up one morning with a terrible hangover in a hotel in Dubai only to find a dead body of a man, a hedge-fund company man partial to Russian literature whom Cassie met on her flight a day ago and spent a night with, lying next to her. Thenceforth, her reluctant adventure of escaping not only from a suspicion of killing the man she barely knows but also from all that has been troubling her mind as her anxiety is translated into a borderline paranoia. But Cassie is hardly a pathetic figure; she is a great functional alcoholic, prefers a one-night stand with a stranger she meets during her flight or at a bar. She also lies pretty well although most of her lies are absent from malice. And yet, it’s also hard to dislike her or stigmatize her as a loose woman, for in one way or another, the reader may find her related to herself in the deprivations of love and security, of intimacy and support. She’s the perfect embodiment of imperfect heroine not uncommon but exceptional to recognize.
In fact, Bohjalian’s superb narrative skills that show Cassie’s truculent inner crisis without using cerebral terms of psychology lucidly and effectively builds the development of the story all the more flawlessly and sleekly at the same time. Without using flowery words or baroque-styled sentences, Bohjalan’s unlikely heroine of the story seems convincingly realistic and vivid as if the reader were inside of Cassie’s mind. In terms of subject matters of the story, Bohjalian skillfully incorporates social issues of self-destructive alcoholism, white-color crimes, depression, and other types of addiction into the story without inculcating a moral undertone in the narrative. Also, Bohjalian’s choice of flight attendant as the profession of Cassie proves that writing truthfully and entertainingly about everyday life in contemporary setting always works best to attract the reader to the world of literary creation that seem so real. In this respect, Bohjalian follows the footstep of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the creator of Anne ff Green Gables, who once said the idea of a good story results from making use of the real to perfect the ideal which includes encompassing foibles and idiosyncrasies of the human nature because they can enhance literary imaginations viscerally and effectually to the extent possible.
All in all, The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian achieves its purpose of entertaining the reader with pages filled with vivid characters, lucid descriptions of the scenes, and plots that twist even the most logical assumptions of each chapter thanks to Bohjalian’s diligent research of all the components of the story, ranging from the work routine of a flight attendant to FBI investigation procedures, behavior patterns of a functioning alcoholic, and to the world of financial espionages, all packaged fabulously in straightforwardly powerful language he employs. The reader will be engrossed in the story, wanting to know more about the fate of Cassie as if she were an acquaintance. It’s the art of Bohjalian that lured me into this riveting thriller. The Flight Attendant is a classic of our time that has a style without neologism, contemporary with our time with its powerful, fresh, and universal appeal to the reader of this modern time.