The Houseguest

Thomas Berger, Author Little Brown and Company $16.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-09163-3
Chuck Burgoyne seems, at first, to be the ideal houseguest, according to Audrey Graves, his unsuspecting hostess. He's a gourmet cook, he's congenial company, and he even saves a family member from drowning. Writing in his customary surreal style, Berger (Little Big Man, Being Invisible) creates the quintessential weekend-houseguest horror story, detailing the process that leads to the decision to kill Chuck, when his behavior inexplicably changes. Chuck turns progressively nastystealing, raping and destroying in calculated measure, laying waste to the normally tidy Graves household. He preys on each family member in a different way, aided by uncannily intimate knowledge of his victims and abetted by mysterious cohorts in the nearby village. Is Chuck in fact a member of the hateful Finch tribe, who, with surly indifference, provide all household services to the rich and lazy Graves family? And who invited him, anyway? As the family unites in a variety of unsuccessful attempts to triumph over Chuck, Berger evokes with flair, wit and not a little craziness a series of events leading to the most sensible if unexpected outcome. It is a story that questions the rules of middle-class America, breaks those rules and then rearranges them into a new kind of ship-shape order. Well-written, funny but ultimately disconcerting, The Houseguest challenges values without offering anything better. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-14-012004-2
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-7432-5794-7
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