A Stranger Like You

A Stranger Like You

4.2 18
by Elizabeth Brundage
     
 

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A taut and terrifying thriller about the lengths to which we'll go to make our dreams come true

Hedda Chase is a top-flight executive producer at Gladiator Films, fast-tracked in the business since she graduated from Yale. An aggressive businesswoman, she recently pulled the plug on a film project initiated by one of her predecessors. The screenwriter

Overview

A taut and terrifying thriller about the lengths to which we'll go to make our dreams come true

Hedda Chase is a top-flight executive producer at Gladiator Films, fast-tracked in the business since she graduated from Yale. An aggressive businesswoman, she recently pulled the plug on a film project initiated by one of her predecessors. The screenwriter on the project was Hugh Waters, a wannabe with a dead-end marriage and a day job at an insurance company. This script was his ticket out-until Hedda tampered with his plans, claiming his violence was over the top, his premise not credible, and his ending implausible. Hugh decides to prove otherwise by staging his script's ending and casting Hedda Chase as the victim. He flies to Los Angeles and finds Hedda, kidnaps her, and locks her in the trunk of her vintage BMW in the parking lot at LAX. He leaves the keys in the ignition, the parking ticket on the dash, and lets "destiny" take its course.

This is the set-up for a troubling, smart, deadly look at women and images of women, at media as a high-stakes game and the selling of a war as theatre. (One key character is an Iraq veteran, and one of Hedda's projects is a film about women in Iraq). Brundage's Los Angeles is a casual battleground that trades carelessly in lives and dreams. As always, her characters are complicated, surprising, and intense in this high velocity, provocative novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hollywood goes Hollyweird in this intense, provocative thriller about power, war, and the portrayal of women in film from Brundage (Somebody Else's Daughter). When Hedda Chase, a producer at Gladiator Films, rejects The Adjuster, a violently sexist movie script by insurance underwriter Hugh Waters, Hugh makes a special trip from his home in New Jersey to L.A. After locating where she lives, he confronts Hedda in her driveway and demands an explanation. Unhappy with her response, he drugs and stuffs Hedda in the trunk of her vintage BMW. He drives the car to an LAX parking lot and walks away. Hugh proceeds to befriend Hedda's boyfriend, married documentary filmmaker Tom Foster, and otherwise make a new life for himself, ditching his wife and job back in Jersey while Hedda barely clings to life. Brundage brilliantly shifts back and forth between Hugh, Hedda, and Denny, an injured Iraq war veteran, who plays a key role in Hedda's fate. The action culminates in illuminating revelations about the intersection of theater with reality. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Intense, provocative thriller about power, war, and the portrayal of women in film.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Intimate novel of psychological suspense… about the limitations imposed on women in male-dominated societies.”—The New York Times
 
“Brundage excels at pushing her characters to their limits and then reflecting on the consequences of their behavior.”—Booklist
 
“Brundage is an astonishing writer... This is the best novel I’ve read about the underbelly of Hollywood since ‘The Day of the Locust.’”— Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“Elizabeth Brundage delivers a pithy, ironic L.A. noir full of broken dreams and snappy repartee.”—Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing
 
“Elizabeth Brundage is the real thing—an ambitious, serious novelist… I couldn’t stop turning the pages of this action-packed, poetic, large-souled novel. And I closed it with a pounding heart.”—Sheila Weller, bestselling author of Girls Like Us
 
“A disturbingly believable thriller that catches you in a spider web of blind ambition, karma, and cinema dreams. Brundage perfectly captures the laid-back perniciousness of L.A. and the dark heart of the movie biz. It’s a 21st-century ‘noir’ that takes you on a journey that leaves you fearful for yourself. Brundage is a singular talent.”—Dirk Wittenborn, author of Pharmakon, or The Story of a Happy Family
 
“I’m pulling out all the best adjectives here: quirky, dark, full of unexpected surprises, and oh yes, a wonderful, thorny portrait of Hollywood.”—Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World

Kirkus Reviews

A high-minded female Hollywood studio executive is trapped in the kind of lurid drama she hates when she is abducted by a sociopath whose script she rejected.

As the recently installed executive producer at Gladiator Films, Hedda Chase wants to rewrite the studio's trashy agenda by telling stories that "resonate in the hearts and minds of the American public" and eliminate male dominance over women. After she 86's a misogynistic thriller her predecessor greenlighted before dropping dead, she is stalked by the writer, Hugh Waters, a New Jersey insurance underwriter who was paid a large sum for his script but feels abused. Taking cues from its violent plot, he drugs her and deposits her in the trunk of her vintage BMW. When the car is stolen by a troubled young Iraq War veteran, who manages to ignore the thumping noises in the trunk as he heads to Las Vegas with a teenage runaway, Hedda has time to think about a project of hers being filmed in Abu Dhabi, about the stoning death of an Iraqi woman accused of committing adultery with an American soldier. The overlapping plots work better than they should, as does Brundage's odd use of second person when introducing Hedda's point of view. But the author's Hollywood critique is stale and her aspirations to artistic meaning are no more fruitful than Hedda's. Her bursts of high literary stylecreate the nagging sense that she is slumming in the thriller genre. Brundage (Somebody Else's Daughter, 2008, etc.) may be aware of the cheap irony of real life imitating B movies, but that doesn't make the device any less hackneyed.

A psychological thriller with neither compelling insight nor thrills.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101190333
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/05/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
57,696
File size:
294 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[An] intense, provocative thriller about power, war, and the portrayal of women in film.... Brundage brilliantly shifts back and forth between Hugh, Hedda, and Denny, an injured Iraq war veteran, who plays a key role in Hedda's fate. The action culminates in illuminating revelations about the intersection of theater with reality."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"'People are ugly and cruel. They are relentless. They will stop at nothing to get what they want.'" Like The Player, A Stranger Like You tests this hard-boiled lemma against the beautiful, nasty backdrop of Hollywood. Elizabeth Brundage delivers a pithy, ironic L.A. noir full of broken dreams and snappy repartee."
-Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing

"Elizabeth Brundage is the real thing-an ambitious, serious novelist. Not for her, small bites. She uses Dickensian coincidence and the Russians' sense of tragic destiny, all while observing modern life with a biting acuity and a throwaway hipness-and she dares you to care for characters whose self-contempt, earnest longings, and sad ingratiation are uncomfortably unalloyed. Brundage imbues Hollywood with a mystical super-reality, and scrubs it of anything stock. I couldn't stop turning the pages of this action-packed, poetic, large-souled novel. And I closed it with a pounding heart."
-Sheila Weller, bestselling author of Girls Like Us

"A Stranger Like You is a disturbingly believable thriller that catches you in a spider web of blind ambition, karma, and cinema dreams. Elizabeth Brundage perfectly captures the laid-back perniciousness of L.A. and the dark heart of the movie biz. It's a 21st-century 'noir' that takes you on a journey that leaves you fearful for yourself. Brundage is a singular talent."
-Dirk Wittenborn, author of Pharmakon, or The Story of a Happy Family

"Brundage excels at pushing her characters to their limits and then reflecting on the consequences of their behavior."
-Booklist

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Brundage is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned an MFA in fiction and a James Michener award. Her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, Witness Magazine, and New Letters, and she contributed to the anthology Thicker Than Blood: I’ve Always Meant to Tell You, Letters to Our Mothers.

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A Stranger Like You 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book. The flap copy oh so modestly calls it "smart, scary, provocative, topical, and full of surprises." It lives up to the billing and delivers even more! In the context of a Hollywood hotshot's rejection of a script that is an example of everything wrong with film today - violent premise, implausible ending, full of clichés - Brundage delivers a story that playfully examines those flaws and somehow (really this is such an amazing thing to watch unfold) ends up employing them to create a story that is not just believable and unclichéd, but also emotionally moving and thought-provoking - without sacrificing the thriller pacing Hollywood relies so heavily upon. I could go on forever about the things to admire here: the clever structure; the brilliant prose (so many lines and phrases I wish I'd written); the very full and real characters; and, in the Hedda sections, the most effect second person point of view I've ever read. Book clubs will find so much to discuss. But what carries A Stranger Like You beyond admirable literary fiction to truly wonderful, stay-up-all-night reading is that one thing Hollywood values, and so often fails to deliver: a compelling and meaningful story well-told.
AaronPaulLazar More than 1 year ago
When Hugh Waters, insurance agent, takes a screenwriting class and miraculously sells his salacious thriller to Hollywood, his drab and unhappy life takes on sudden meaning. But when a Hollywood executive dies, the successor, Ivy Leaguer Hedda Chase, denounces the script as chauvinistic and unbelievable, resulting in a cancelled contract for Hugh. Hugh snaps, flies to LA, and stalks Hedda with a vague plan to convince her she's wrong about his story. Instead, with no qualms and with the calculating, level-headed insanity of a true sociopath, he submits her to the same quandary the character in his film endures, to prove that his plot is plausible. Hedda is locked in the trunk of her vintage BMW and abandoned at the airport, keys dangling in the ignition. On another path, Iraq war veteran Denny Rios, pushed and berated by a group of decadent soldiers, was forced to half-heartedly join in the horrific rape of a young Iraqi girl when on duty overseas. Haunted by the experience, sickened by guilt, never free of the girl's face in his nightmares, Denny flees when the cops approach his aunt and uncle's home and steals the car with Hedda still bound and gagged in the trunk. I know, it's an intriguing plot. But it's not the storyline that captivated me in this novel. It's more the Dostoevsky-like telling of the tale. Although A Stranger Like You is billed as a mystery/thriller, I'd prefer to see it classified as literary psychological fiction. The "literary" tag comes from the pure poetry that infiltrates Brundage's well-written prose. "They would smoke pot and make love, her skin the impenitent green of old bay leaves, her nipples like the smudged rubber thimbles of a bookkeeper, and then she'd make him tea with mint that she grew on her windowsill. Compared to his wife, Jolene was easily satisfied, uninhibited about her nakedness, her smells, her moody breath. She moved with the unhindered heft of a wrestler." Brundage showcases very long and winding passages that contain little dialog or action, aside from the running stream-of-consciousness thoughts of each character. Layered over and between each other, these passages of inner thoughts, often told in present tense, second person, lend kaleidoscopic views to the story, hopping back and forth through time and focusing on the unique angle seen by each character. It's the use of second person ("you" POV) that brings the intimacy to these segments. (see more on Amazon.com)
Lynie More than 1 year ago
Hugh Waters is a mess. Unhappily married and working at a dead end job as an insurance underwriter in New Jersey, Hugh Waters suddenly had a bright future; Gladiator Films bought his screenplay for enough money to fuel his fantasies of a better life. But just as quickly, everything changed for the worse for Hugh when the executive producer passed away and was replaced by Hedda Chase. Chase has decided she's finished with violent and sexist movie scripts and axes Hugh's script, sending him a vitriolic letter that sends him into a tailspin. After Waters receives Chase's missive, he travels from New Jersey to LA to confront her and prove her wrong. Not getting the response he wants, he acts out his screenplay by kidnapping Hedda, locking her in the trunk of her car and leaving her at LAX long term parking with the keys in the ignition and walks away leaving her to chance. Reminiscent of the movie "CRASH", Brundage weaves narratives by Waters, Chase, a teenage runaway and a troubled young soldier just home from Iraq and working as a parking lot attendant at LAX. While you hold your breath waiting to find out Hedda's fate, Hugh insinuates himself into her life and social circle. The novel explodes when the characters intersect in this terrific and quirky thriller. I'll definitely be reading Brundage's previous books. Lynn Kimmerle
KenCady More than 1 year ago
This offbeat tale is clever, well-written, and ultimately a very cold look at war, love, and the movies. It sends up Hollywood in some vicious swipes, yet ultimately gives the reader no one to care for, just some issues to think about. That's not so bad, but don't read the book expecting to feel a warm glow about the world.
francessilver More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written thriller that deals not only with a gripping story but with serious topical issues. It offers bookclubs much in-depth material to discuss. A Stranger Like You is Brundage's third novel-an absorbing work worthy of high praise! Francessilver
RBlodgett More than 1 year ago
I have a small book club and this was my pick for April. I'd sum it up as a roller coaster ride, not the actual ones which I hate, but the fiction kind I love. I'd met the author at a signing for her release of All Things Cease to Appear, which has gotten really good reviews, only I don't pick hardbacks for the book club. I chose this book instead since it featured a writer and half our club writes fiction. Of course from the start you know everything that can go wrong will probably go wrong - it mostly does. I loved the character development. I prefer my thrillers along with most everything else I read to have a lot of character development and I don't mind backstory. This delivered both doled out in perfect chunks that had the story moving forward and keeping me anxious for more. I read most of it in two sittings - for a slow reader who often stops to think about what she's reading I consider that fast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
studious1 More than 1 year ago
Another provocative novel by Brundage.
kimbookeditor More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book. I couldn't put it down, literally. I read it in one shot. Brundage takes the reader into the minds of three main characters, a top film producing executive, a psycho guy who just left his wife and a GI who returned from the Iraq war. The chapters alternate between perspectives. The reader gets to know each one and come to understand them. One of these characters is abducted. But who did it? It is NOT obvious. And, Brundage expertly weaves the tale along a winding path that is interesting and wild. I loved it! I also loved her first book The Doctor's Wife. Kim
Love-2-Read-Literary More than 1 year ago
This is a fast, intelligent read. I read it over the weekend and it got me thinking about a lot of things - the movies and the industry that makes them and the people involved. And the war in Iraq. The characters are very strange and unique and I wasn't sure if they were all going to come together in the end, but they did. This is a truly oustanding novel.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
It all starts with a Premise!! Hugh Waters was so excited that he had sold his script. His whole life was about to change. Then a new person was put in charge so the contract was canceled. He believed the new person, Hedda Chase, was wrong when she said "NO!" to his project. So Hugh jumped on a plane to Los Angeles just to talk to her, make her see the script was good. The conversation didn't go as planned when she declared his story unbelievable. Stressed to a breaking point, Hugh decided to reenact the terrifying ending using Miss Chase as the victim. Now her life hangs in the balance when Hugh plan takes an unplanned turn. This is story about how far someone may go to fulfill his dreams. Set in the high pressure of life in Hollywood, it is a scary look at just how quickly things can go wrong. I would characterize the story as more intense psychological story than as a thriller. The characters are uniquely fit together, sometimes at too much of a coincidence to ring true, but the characters themselves are believable with their many faults. Hugh is bored with his life, including both his job and his marriage. I felt sorry for his wife. The character of Hedda Chase is very unlikable so it takes a little work on the part of the reader to become concerned about her fate. The homeless girl showing up at weird times and places gave me pause. Bringing in a character, Denny, an Iraqi war vet adds a sense of current events to the story, but again his actions were confusing at times. With all that said I did enjoy the book, it just was not what I expected. It was much more psychological as first Hugh definitely suffers a break from reality but it seems all the other characters do as well. This turns into a character study set off by one event that connects it each character to the others. The way the story itself was written was the part that made it interesting, as it was told from the points of view of three different people and we actually got to read what was in their minds, what they were thinking. To me this saved the book. The characters were well written the plot just seemed forced and contrived. This is the first book I have read by this author and understand her past novel, The Doctor's Wife, was very successful and received excellent reviews so I will probably add it to my wish list. This one was just a bit off the mark for me. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Plume Books, A Division of The Penguin Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Gladiator Films producer Hedda Chase rejects the script of The Adjuster that her late predecessor approved. The scriptwriter New Jersey insurance underwriter Hugh Waters rages. His violence against women script contains no hint of a redeeming quality. Leaving his wife behind, a fuming, in spite of being paid for his script, Hugh goes to Hollywood to confront Hedda. In her driveway, he demands she explain why she said no. He ignoring her response as nothing she says will appease him. Instead Hugh drugs Hedda and dumps her in the trunk of her BMW. He drives her car to A Los Angeles Airport parking lot and leaves. He next meets and becomes friends with Hedda's married boyfriend documentary filmmaker Tom Foster. Hugh begins a reinvented life in California while Hedda struggles to survive as her car is stolen by war veteran Denny and Daisy a runaway heading to Vegas. This is an exciting psychological thriller that deftly follows the thoughts and escapades of the lead trio (Hugh, Hedda, and Denny) though the viewpoints applied differ as for instance the producer is from a second person POVand almost seems like a camera perspective; the others are more first and third person. Entertaining, fans will enjoy this fine tale in which Hollywood considers going Abu Dhabi. Harriet Klausner
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