Chris Bohjalian captivates full house at An Unlikely Story

The atmosphere was electric at An Unlikely Story bookstore and cafe in Plainville, Massachusetts on March 26, 2024, as over 200 eager fans awaited the appearance of New York Times best-selling author Chris Bohjalian. Among a crowd of devoted readers, pre-event chatter buzzed with discussions and questions about favorite books from his extensive repertoire, each response offering a unique perspective. It was no surprise, considering Bohjalian’s latest release, The Princess of Las Vegas, marks his 24th book and 35th book tour. Anticipation for a warm and witty presentation ran high, yet few could have predicted the sight of “stand-up comedian Chris Bohjalian,” bedecked in a glittering tiara, greeting the audience.

“Stand-up comedian,” New York Times bestselling author Chris Bohjalian

The evening commenced with book influencer Robin Kall Homonoff of Reading with Robin and a longtime friend of Bohjalian’s, with whom he engaged in a remarkable conversation in 2018 in Rhode Island in honor of Armenian Genocide remembrance day. Homonoff initiated the conversation by delving into Bohjalian’s early writing days, favorite genres and the influences shaping his distinctive style. While Bohjalian’s work is primarily literary fiction, he prefers the straightforward term “fiction” and takes pride in delivering what readers desire. He humorously acknowledged his debut novel’s shortcomings, as a mystery catering to the appetite for young adult misbehavior in the 1980s. Reflecting on shifts in storytelling over the past 12 years, he noted the prevalence of dread in cable dramas and streaming series, a thematic element he embraces as his literary super power, evident in his novels and the hit HBO series “The Flight Attendant,” based on his novel of the same name, which he views as a character study of a functional alcoholic.

The Princess of Las Vegas plunges readers into a world of suspense with a brutal mob hit early on, weaving a narrative thread of dread. Its cast of characters includes two beautifully flawed sisters: one an impersonator of Princess Diana in Las Vegas, the other a fintech innovator navigating the complexities of family and mob entanglements. Homonoff observed that unlike fans of writers who stick to predictable series, Bohjalian’s audience eagerly consumes whatever he pens, prompting inquiry into his secret. With a gleam of pride, he credited three influential women: his wife, Victoria Blewer, who has been a steadfast reader of his four million words; his daughter, a principal reader since high school; and his editor, Jenny Jackson, also a best-selling author of Pineapple Street.

The discussion turned to the evolution of reading habits in the smartphone era, with Bohjalian lamenting his dwindling attention span for reading, now punctuated by smartphone distractions. Recalling a recent interview revelation, he expressed a desire to “write the kind of book that makes you silence your phone.” Reflecting on his research expeditions to Las Vegas and studies of Princess Diana, Bohjalian remarked on the challenge of keeping pace with rapidly evolving global events, such as the Ukraine crisis and FTX scandals, which necessitated revisions to his latest novel.

An enthralled crowd enjoys the conversation between Chris Bohjalian and Robin Kall Homonoff

He stated that The Sandcastle Girls may always be the most important of his works to him. “As a grandson of two survivors of the Armenian Genocide, I wrote that book to educate Americans about the Armenian Genocide,” Bohjalian said. The line that is most often quoted from the book is from his female stand-in, Laura Petrossian: “There’s a direct line between the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian killing fields, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur. It’s a very long line, but how much genocide can one sentence handle?”

Following the engaging discussion, Bohjalian distributed Las Vegas playing cards for audience queries, sparking lively interactions as eager readers lined up for signed copies of his books.

The video of the evening is available on An Unlikely Story’s Facebook page.

Victoria Atamian Waterman

Victoria Atamian Waterman

Victoria Atamian Waterman is a writer born in Rhode Island. Growing up in an immigrant, bilingual, multi-generational home with survivors of the Armenian Genocide has shaped the storyteller she has become. She is a trustee of Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church and chair of the Armenian Heritage Monument in Whitinsville, MA. She is the author of "Who She Left Behind."
Victoria Atamian Waterman

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