2 reviews

The Red Lotus: A Novel
by Chris Bohjalian

Published: 2021-01-05T00:0
Paperback : 400 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant comes a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to ...
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant comes a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.

The first time Alexis saw Austin, it was a Saturday night. Not in a bar, but in the emergency room where Alexis sutured a bullet wound in Austin's arm. Six months later, on the brink of falling in love, they travel to Vietnam on a bike tour so that Austin can show her his passion for cycling and he can pay his respects to the place where his father and uncle fought in the war. But as Alexis sips white wine and waits at the hotel for him to return from his solo ride, two men emerge from the tall grass and Austin vanishes into thin air. The only clue he leaves behind is a bright yellow energy gel dropped on the road. As Alexis grapples with this bewildering loss, and deals with the FBI, Austin's prickly family, and her colleagues at the hospital, Alexis uncovers a series of strange lies that force her to wonder: Where did Austin go? Why did he really bring her to Vietnam? And how much danger has he left her in? Set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room, The Red Lotus is a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who peddle death to the highest bidder.

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Alexis’s work as an emergency room doctor has shown her that life is short—and full of unexpected horrors. How do you think the trauma she’s seen in her career affects the choices she makes early in her relationship with Austin?

2. What initially attracts Alexis to Austin? How does their “meet-cute” in the ER set the tone for their relationship even before Austin disappears?

3. The Vietnam that Alexis experiences on the bike trip is full of natural beauty and thriving cities, but references are made often to the destruction that the country faced during the war. How do events of the Vietnam War loom over the action of the book despite it being set in the present? Have you ever traveled somewhere that felt deeply immersed in its past?

4. Rats are a recurring motif throughout the narrative and noted for their ability to survive chemical warfare and wreak havoc by carrying pathogens. They’re also a common—albeit loathed—aspect of life in cities like New York and Ho Chi Minh City. How are rats being used as a metaphor in this story? What “ratlike” qualities do characters like Austin and Douglas possess?

5. Why do you think Alexis insists on investigating Austin’s death when she returns home from Vietnam? What reasons might she have for trying to solve the mystery beyond the fact that the victim was her boyfriend?

6. Ken Sarafian connects personally to different aspects of Austin’s murder: he’s a Vietnam vet, and his daughter was the same age as Alexis. Do you think these personal connections help or hinder him more as he moves through the investigation?

7. Alexis’s relationship with her mother is complicated, but loving. How do you think Alexis grows to understand her mother more after Austin’s death?

8. Taleen Sarafian observes that the “red lotus” plague is named after a beautiful flower that “sinks at night” and “rises again at dawn.” Where else in the novel do you see themes of resurrection?

9. Written before the COVID-19 pandemic—and published just as the crisis began to spike in the US—The Red Lotus is an eerily prescient take on the devastating effects of global disease and the role of healthcare workers and first responders. What did reading The Red Lotus teach you about pandemics? Did it change how you think about COVID-19 and its aftermath? Why do you think stories about biological warfare and “new plagues” are so consistently scary?

10. How did you understand the motivation behind the creation of the “red lotus” pathogen? Do you think it was solely about money, or was there another reason so many doctors and scientists might have collaborated on something so dangerous?

11. THE RED LOTUS is Chris Bohjalian’s twentieth novel in a diverse body of work. If you’ve read any of his other books, what distinct qualities—of plot, character, theme, mood, and style—make them uniquely “Bohjalian”?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Sara B. (see profile) 11/10/22

The first book I've read by Chris Bohjalian, The Red Lotus was an excellent introduction to this talented author. A thrilling and eerie novel that takes readers from the US to Vietnam and ba... (read more)

by Debbie K. (see profile) 06/04/21

by ELIZABETH V. (see profile) 03/14/21

I can’t speak highly enough of THE RED LOTUS.

?If your preferred genre is thriller but so many books billed as "psychological thriller" don’t do much for you, if you want a literary thr

... (read more)

  "A Prescient Novel about a Possible Pandemic "by Gail R. (see profile) 07/09/20

The Red Lotus-A Novel, Chris Bohjalian, author; Rebecca Lowman, narrator
This is a diabolical novel about a scheme to cause a pandemic with the use of a biological weapon that spreads quick
... (read more)

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