Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?
Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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About the Author
Date of Birth:August 12, 1961
Place of Birth:White Plains, New York
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Excerpted from "The Flight Attendant"
Copyright © 2019 Chris Bohjalian.
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Reading Group Guide
In his twentieth book, Chris Bohjalian takes riveting storytelling to a new cruising altitude. A mesmerizing tale of denial and revelation, The Flight Attendant opens in an opulent hotel suite in Dubai, where Cassandra Bowden awakens to find herself in bed with a dead man. He had been a passenger on her flight the day before. He was handsome, and a flirt. And when he asked her to rendezvous for a romantic dinner after they landed, she couldn’t say no . . . just as she can’t ever say no to the seductive pleasures of alcohol. This time, her binge-drinking has ended in bloody crime scene. But Cassie has no memory of any intruders. Could she have murdered her mysterious date? If not, who did?
Set in a world of high-stakes intrigue and glamorous jet-setters, The Flight Attendant is at once a literary thriller and a powerful meditation on the devastating consequences of addiction. This is a novel that is sure to stir lively conversations. We hope this guide will enrich your discussion. The questions contain a few spoilers, so you might want to hold off reviewing the guide until everyone in the group has finished the book.
Guide written by Amy Clements
1. What traits do Cassie and Elena (“Miranda”) have in common, and what are their fundamental differences? Though they were raised worlds apart, how did their parents teach them to conceal their true selves? To what extent do both women manage to deceive themselves as well?
2. How did your opinion of Alex Sokolov shift as his life story unfolded? At first, what did you think was the motive behind his murder?
3. How is Cassie’s dependence on alcohol linked to her dependence on lying? What is at the root of her cycle of intoxicated euphoria followed by self-loathing?
4. What accounts for the very different paths Cassie and her younger sister, Rosemary, take in life? How does their relationship compare to the one between you and your siblings?
5. What does The Flight Attendant say about the distinction between bad decisions and destiny? To what degree are Cassie and Elena in control of their misdirected choices?
6. Discuss the men in Cassie’s life. What keeps her from experiencing real intimacy? What’s different about Enrico?
7. In this novel, what did you learn about the cyber world and the real world after the fall of the Soviet Union? Does technology give you hope or make you worry?
8. When Cassie compulsively pilfers items while traveling and then wraps them up as gifts, is she simply trying to live on a limited budget, or does it say something deeper about her relationship to possessions and the images she wanted her loved ones to have of her?
9. As the flight attendants in the novel work a variety of international routes, what do their experiences prove about the common threads that exist in all of humanity, no matter where we are?
10. What does it take for Cassie to own up to her missteps? Before she met Alex, had she ever harmed anyone but herself?
11. As you read the FBI reports, what did you discover about information and power? Would you have followed the advice of attorney Ani Mouradian, telling the truth to the FBI?
12. Are the novel’s characters either cold-blooded or compassionate, or are they some combination of each? Were you good at predicting which characters were the bad guys?
13. Even though she has logged thousands of miles in her career, Cassie still marvels at the miracle of flight when she sees a plane passing overhead. How did the novel enhance your appreciation for air travel and flight crews? What elements of the job surprised you the most? If you were in Cassie’s line of work, which routes would you bid on most often?
14. In the novel and in your own experience, what does it ultimately take to become the person you always wanted to be?
15. What are the hallmarks of this author’s storytelling? How was your experience of The Flight Attendant enhanced by the Bohjalian novels you’ve previously read?