In An Unexpected Guest, Anne Korkeakivi’s first full-length novel, the main narrative takes place in under twenty-four hours. However, it reaches depths of nuanced character and tells a story of life-changing actions and their consequences. Clare, the American wife of a British diplomat in Paris, has been asked to put on a last-minute dinner party that could make or break her husband’s next posting. Over the course of the evening, she will have to impress the guests, while hiding her own secrets, which include a son who has gone AWOL from his privileged English boarding school, a chance meeting with a Turk accused of terrorism, and her own possible connections to the IRA in her youth. The latter is even more problematic, since the post her husband wants is in Dublin.
Over the course of the day, Clare thinks about what her life was and what it has become. Her flashbacks and memories take on a dream-like feeling that leave her and the reader wondering what her life might have been like, had she made some different choices. She shows us how the past and the present intertwine to make us who we are right now.
If this is only Korkeakivi’s first novel, I can’t wait to see what’s next.