Click here to read reviewer Regan Windsor's take on The Mystery Guest: An Account.
A humorous yet profound memoir about moving out of our emotional ruts and beyond, The Mystery Guest: An Account is a slim book that packs a big punch.
Bouillier receives a phone call from a woman who left him without a word many years ago. Instead of a meaningful conversation full of heartfelt apologies and explanations, she casually invites him to be a mystery guest at a birthday party for “a contemporary artist” friend. The suddenness of the call with its blasé tone sets off one of the many hilarious inner monologues that permeate the book. His rambling, often paranoid, thoughts are filled with strange connections regarding Sunday, which is the day of the invitation as well as the day she left him, and nihilistic theories concerning life and the universe at large. Nothing is too trivial to be inflated to colossal proportions and then hashed out in minute detail.
Finally reaching the party with Gift in hand, Bouillier is distressed when his former lover does not act as he imagined. However, here among the pretentious partygoers, a single comment helps him piece together the reasons for the abrupt breakup and to finally achieve understanding and closure.
This impressive memoir mostly deals with a single event in Bouillier’s life and portrays him as an imaginative but melancholy skeptic who is also something of a narcissist. Neither past nor current loves are even given a name. But his grandiose theories and existential questions, though humorously overblown, expose the tendencies we all have towards inner egomania.
Not surprisingly, this interior life goes to great lengths to hide a tremendous self- doubt and stinging pain of rejection. Although flawed, he is an appealing and sympathetic character.
My favorite part of the book is when Bouillier was searching for The Gift. Broke and unable to find anything appropriate, he begins an inward rail against a materialistic society for not having anything “that seemed to incarnate anything more than profit and gain” and that the only purpose of gift-wrap is “to cover up the fact that The Gift is based on a lie.”
Funny and poignant, The Mystery Guest is a must-read.