An Unexpected Guest Review
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For those who live in the public eye, every choice is a political one. From their clothing choices to the businesses they patronize, every detail is scrutinized and evaluated. But as author Anne Korkeakivi shows in her debut novel, An Unexpected Guest, those carefully-calculated outward appearances often mask inner chaos.

American Clare Moorhouse has given her entire married life to the British Foreign Office. Though her husband, Edward, is the one collecting the paycheck, Clare sees herself as another member of the staff. During her marriage to Edward, she’s had to pack up her home—and her two sons—every few years. She’s attended events and hosted dinners, always sure to serve the right entrées, wear the right clothes, and say the right things. Now those years of service might be paying off for Edward in a way that Clare finds absolutely devastating.

Currently serving as British Minister in Paris, Edward becomes aware that his next move could be to the role of British Ambassador in Ireland. The assignment could depend on the success of a last-minute dinner that the Moorhouses are asked to host after the Ambassador falls ill, so Clare dives into the planning, all the while knowing that the new assignment could dig up a secret that’s haunted her for 25 years.

Told throughout one extremely eventful day for the Minister’s wife, An Unexpected Guest is a captivating, character-driven exploration of guilt and redemption, of secrets and confessions, written with a style that’s as elegant as its posh Parisian setting.

On one hand, the story offers an absorbing look inside the world of international diplomacy. Clare spends her life being as neutral as possible, wearing her blonde hair in a classic style, dressing in shades of beige, always careful not to suggest (in word, deed, or even appearance) any idea that might be the slightest bit controversial or political. Through the years, she’s learned how to keep everyone happy, whether it’s her husband, her staff, or her guests. For Clare, having no distinguishable personality is a carefully-honed skill.

Still, there’s more to the character than just the duties of a diplomatic spouse. She’s also the mother of two very different teenagers—one of whom is in the midst of his latest crisis—and, at the same time, she’s also haunted by the actions of her own impulsive youth. As she struggles to maintain the delicate family balance while planning a crucial last-minute dinner party, she’s faced with more questions and dilemmas than one woman should be forced to handle in a single day. While picking out floral arrangements and writing place cards, she’s forced to decide whether to keep secrets from her husband or admit her mistakes, whether to do what’s best for her husband or do what’s right, whether to keep quiet or speak up. And while the challenges she faces are fascinating, the choices that she eventually makes are even more so.

An Unexpected Guest isn’t a speedy read. Instead, it’s a thoughtful, character-driven tale that moves along gracefully, at an unhurried pace, pulling you into the various aspects of Clare’s personality, from her perfectly primped public persona to her somewhat chaotic family life to the secrets that she keeps carefully tucked out of sight. It may take a little extra time to read and absorb, but it’s definitely time well spent.

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