This review on Dear Author caught my attention. The subject was daunting to me, but I usually enjoy the books Janine recommends so I decided to check out the author. That’s how I came across The Waiting Room.
The book opens with Sophie getting ready to spend the night in the waiting room of a Cambodian train station. She’s not alone, there’s a man there as well. She falls asleep but a noise of a zipper lowering awakens her, and when she opens her eyes she sees him masturbating. At first she is shocked and doesn’t really know what to do, but instead of running or screaming she just stays and watches. She becomes aroused by him, the setting and something inside her, so she ends up masturbating with him. Afterwards, they decide to go to a hotel and spend the night and that’s when the story begins.
Explaining more would mean spoiling the plot but one thing you should know is that Alex, the stranger, is not a perv and neither is Sophie. He has been watching her for days and can recognize something in her, something akin to the man he used to be years ago. He can see that she’s broken and the fascination he feels is equal parts desire to help her and just plain greed. He wants to fix her for her wellbeing but also for the power that comes from it.
One of the aspects I found really interesting about the story is how the power progressively shifts from Alex to Sophie. Or maybe Alex was never truly in charge and I’m reading it wrong. But what’s obvious is that Sophie undergoes a change throughout the story. She goes from broken and just wandering, to broken but ready to fix herself. I don’t think she was a completely different person at the end of the story, but she wasn’t as helpless.
Sophie isn’t a likeable character, but I found her compelling, equal parts weak and strong. There were many things about her that remain a mystery. When she has sex she disconnects herself from the act so her body feels but her mind doesn’t. The reason for that is never clear, although at one point she assures Alex that she wasn’t abused or anything like that, so she is as clueless as we are. But is that true? Was she suppressing memories? I needed more answers, although I’m not sure the story would benefit from them.
Alex was even more mysterious and half the time I saw him more as a tool to help Sophie than anything else. It’s not until the end of the book that you realize how complex he was, just in a more subtle way than Sophie. His character arc was about accepting mistakes and not being so cocky. As I said, he wants to help Sophie, but he also wants the power and feeling of ownership that comes from it. I don’t think he was a good person and yet I liked him very much.
It may have all begun with his arrogance, but he was not so blind that he couldn’t see that it had ended with his need—to be needed.
“I didn’t say you should have dismissed her, Alex. But I want you to consider what you were in love with—her or her illness. Do you really think you could see through it to the essential Sophie?”
This is a BDSM story and I’m not an expert on the subject -I’m not even a fan- so my interpretation is probably wrong. But I like that it’s not just about sex but about the mind. It’s about rules, control and discipline, so sexual preference is part of it but not all. BDSM is a key element of the plot but the sex scenes are not heavy. You won’t find chains and whips here. But again, I’m not familiar with the subject, so for all I know chains and whips are just my ignorant view based on a stereotype and not at all accurate. What I do know is that I’m willing to read more stories like this one.
Finally, I must warn you that this is a highly erotic book, but not a romance. So don’t expect a conventional happy ending. I though the way it ends was fitting to both Sophie and Alex and exactly what they needed and deserved, but if you are looking for romance and HEAs you won’t find them here. The story is raw and gritty, and the content and language used may not be for everyone.
Review by Brie
“…We are all animals, Sophie, all of us. We think we are so smart—masters of our destinies, yes? We lie to ourselves that we have control. But if it does not rain, we die of thirst. If it rains too much, we drown…”
Everyone needs to discover his or her own special place in the world, but Sophie has found it almost impossible. Late one night, in the tumbledown waiting room of a derelict Cambodian train station, she meets a stranger who offers to change her life.
Having seen how fleeting and cruel life can be, Alex has found his own way to deal with its uncertainty. With the help of Marcus, his mentor, he has come to believe it is only through artificially imposed order and physical discipline that one can find a semblance of serenity.
Alex is certain he knows how to cure Sophie of her existential angst. But lurking beneath his altruism, does he have his own agenda?
Republica Press. February 9, 2010