The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters: A Novel

( 38 )


An outpouring of cheers, tears, and applause propelled this tender and hilarious first novel onto national bestseller lists immediately upon publication. Telling the story of two sisters-Olivia, a hotshot Hollywood producer whose life is unraveling, and Maddie, an unflaggingly optimistic, seriously ill midwesterner whose idealism has always driven Olivia crazy-The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters offers a startlingly poignant reminder of how hope can grow in ...

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An outpouring of cheers, tears, and applause propelled this tender and hilarious first novel onto national bestseller lists immediately upon publication. Telling the story of two sisters-Olivia, a hotshot Hollywood producer whose life is unraveling, and Maddie, an unflaggingly optimistic, seriously ill midwesterner whose idealism has always driven Olivia crazy-The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters offers a startlingly poignant reminder of how hope can grow in even the darkest places.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
Over the course of about 200 letters (and a few e-mails), Robinson succinctly shows the full range of Olivia's emotions and relationships, from the optimism she tries to instill in her shocked family to the admiration she holds for Maddie's spouse. She poignantly portrays the frustration of trying to sustain a relationship while engaged in a consuming profession. —Edward Nawotka
The New York Times
In both her movie and her life, Olivia struggles to provide her sister and herself with an ideal ending -- a perfect moment that will satisfy everyone. But, finally, this book is a paean to the compromises made out of love: Olivia may be an unreliable narrator, but as a storyteller she comes through in the clutch. — Emily Nussbaum
Publishers Weekly
Hollywood and leukemia are the two unlikely poles of this wrenching, tragicomic first novel by independent producer and screenwriter Robinson. Pouring out her troubles in epistolary form, 34-year-old Olivia Hunt, a struggling film producer, chronicles a year of dizzying highs and devastating lows. As the novel begins, she receives news that her younger sister, Madeline, recently married and happily settled in the sisters' Ohio hometown, has been diagnosed with leukemia. Olivia herself is at loose ends, trying to jump-start her career by putting together a big-budget production of Don Quixote. Impatient, ambitious and often caustic, Olivia is very different from her big-hearted, big-haired sister, and as she flies back and forth between California and Ohio, she reflects on the choices she has made in long, searching letters to friends and family. Though she and her ex-boyfriend Michael, a painter living in New Mexico, are still in love with each other, they are both too devoted to their careers to settle down together. Just as it seems things might be patched up between them, Don Quixote swings into high gear and Olivia heads off to film in Spain. Her Hollywood adventures are pitch-perfect and hilarious, with Robin Williams ("like a beaver in a sweatshirt and jeans") and Jerry Bruckheimer, among others, making cameos. No less impressive is Robinson's unsentimental chronicling of the progress of Maddie's illness and the alternately heroic and selfish reactions of those around her, including the sisters' mother, an anxious children's book writer, and their father, a retired attorney and alcoholic. Olivia's cynicism, compassion and loyalty come through as funny, real and inspiring, and the novel's epistolary format is smoothly employed. Moving but never maudlin, this is an accomplished debut. 10-city author tour. (Jan. 7) Forecast: Robinson's novel is clearly autobiographical-her own sister suffered from leukemia, and Robinson herself once worked on a movie project based on Don Quixote (it never got off the ground). The publisher's 100,000-copy printing might seem ambitious, but the story's intensity and honesty should captivate readers. 10-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As a Hollywood producer, Olivia has suffered through her share of bad movies, but now her own life rivals the worst box office bomb. She has lost her job at Universal Pictures, is on the verge of being evicted, and has been dumped by her true love when she learns that her sister Maddie has leukemia. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It's bright, it's clever, and it's going to be a major hit: a smashing success with the press and the public. Movie producer Robinson's semi-autobiographical debut about a Hollywood movie producer whose sister Ohio gets leukemia is already garnering press as the women's tearjerker of 2004. And understandably so. Olivia, 34, is struggling unsuccessfully to produce a film adaptation of Don Quixote and contemplating the happier aspects of suicide when she receives word that her younger, newly married sister Maddie has been diagnosed with leukemia. Through Olivia's letters-to her parents; best friend Tina and her ex- but still-loved boyfriend Michael; even to big-name Hollywood celebrities she wants involved in her film-we follow the ups and downs of Maddie's illness as well as the ups and downs of Olivia's career and love-life. The very studio that fired Olivia only a short time earlier agrees to produce Quixote, and Olivia's movie ambitions take off. From Hollywood and from locations in Europe, she travels back and forth to Shawnee Falls to be with her family, and the contrasts and connections between the two worlds lie at the novel's heart. In Ohio, Olivia witnesses her reticent mother and alcoholic father's long marriage in a new light. Maddie herself is down-to-earth and spunky throughout her treatments, side-effects, false hope of remissions, and ultimate downward spiral. Her religious husband is a rock. Michael, a painter who is handsome and wonderful but wants her to live with him in New Mexico, visits and beckons Olivia back, but her ambition resists. Meanwhile, Hollywood politics turn ugly, but despite a slight bout of craziness when she steals the car of her nemesis and drives itinto the ocean, Olivia perseveres. She hires a new, handsome director. Don Quixote, starring Robin Williams (bound to make a cameo in the film adaptation) opens to good reviews if not great numbers. Maddie dies gracefully, leaving behind a legacy of love. "You'll laugh, you'll cry": Robinson is enormously skilled at pushing the emotional buttons, but an aftertaste of manipulation lingers. There's also something self-serving about the writing, something frankly very Hollywood about it. But will it sell? Is there balm in Gilead? First printing of 100,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316159364
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 706,081
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elisabeth Robinson
Elisabeth Robinson
An independent producer and screenwriter whose film credits include the award-winning films Braveheart and Last Orders., Elisabeth Robinson makes her literary debut with The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters. "Robinson's book will have you speed-dialing your best friend to share this great read," Marie Claire magazine raved.


Elisabeth Robinson is an independent producer and screenwriter whose film credits include the award-winning films Braveheart and Last Orders. This is her first novel. She lives in New York.

Author biography courtesy of Little, Brown & Co.

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Read an Excerpt

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

A Novel

By Elisabeth Robinson

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2004

Elisabeth Robinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-73502-7

Chapter One

August 25, 1971
August 26, 1971
August 27, 1971

Dear sister,

My name is Olivia Hunt. I am your sister. You are inside mom. Jim is our
brother. He's OK for a boy.

I had a dream about you. I was in the canoe. My hair was in a braid but it was a
snake too. You came out of the lake. You crawled up my snake braid. You got in
the canoe. You look like me. The canoe tipped over but we could talk under

Me and Jim are up here at Aunt Louise's. It's pretty nice. We go swimming. We
pick blueberries. We play in the woods. I get to name you if you're a girl. Dad
said Let's call her Martini. Mom said That's terrible. I don't like that name. I
like the name Madeline. It's my favorite book. I'll read it to you sometime.

Other fun stuff we can do:

1. Play in the treefort.

2. Play dress up in the attic.

3. Pretend we are princesses. I have a crown. Dad will buy you one. You can't
touch mine. Dad buys you whatever you want.

4. Pretend we are brides.

5. Lots of other fun stuff.

I like writing this letter. It's like you're here. Only you're invisible.

I love youalready,


August 28, 1998
35,000 feet over Nevada

Tina Burns
188 Westborne Park Road
Portland, Oregon 97211

Dear Tina,

I was sitting at home yesterday (where else?) working on the fourth draft of my
suicide note when I got the call. I resented the interruption and nearly didn't
answer the phone. I was having a hard time getting the tone right and, as we've
discussed, tone is everything in correspondence. This seems especially true when
it comes to your very, very, very last words. (But I now wonder: is a suicide
note correspondence?) The first draft was too angry, especially toward Michael,
whom in fact I do not resent for dumping me. Why would I? He was doing me a
favor, putting me out of my misery, which is what living with him was like. No,
the raging anger and hate hate hate were misdirected in this draft; they were
really meant for my former boss, the president of Universal Pictures, Mr. Josh

As you may recall from our previous discussions, this guy is a real asshole. You
remember -the one whose lip curls up to the right when he speaks in his
irregular British accent, which he can't seem to shake since his junior year
abroad twenty years ago. Whose pride and joy is not his five-year-old son but
his custom-made butter yellow Rolls-Royce. Josh, whose fleshy face resembles a
rhino's -beady wide-set eyes blinking between a mother of a snout, or maybe it's
the personality that makes one think of a dangerous, stupid beast -and whose
tongue I found down my throat at the company Christmas party? (I know, I should
have sued him as you advised, but I was afraid of being blacklisted.) It was
Josh Miller -of the Hollywood Miller dynasty-who after three years as my boss
still looked at me with a face that said: Who let her in? Who stuck me on that
Babe rip-off Lloyd the Hamster and then fired me the day it tanked, as I
repeatedly warned him it would. Clearly, Josh was the true villain in my life
story and deserved all the hate in my soon-to-expire heart, not dear Michael.
But I couldn't give that windbag the satisfaction of knowing he drove me to
suicide, could I? After further analysis, I realized that of course there were
other people I deeply deeply hated too. So, yesterday afternoon, as the super
pounded the eviction notice into my hollow apartment door, I committed to
another draft.

Now, I love my mother. We all love our mothers, don't we? Dad, too, okay;
somehow. But let's be honest here. You and I both know they destroyed any
chances I had in this world. Don't say "therapy" to me, Tina; you know Dr.
Schteinlegger did his very best for two years before throwing up his
professional hands. I know these dear people from whose clueless loins I sprang
have everything to do with why I'm a complete failure, but that sounded so
common. Who doesn't blame their parents? That draft was full of cliches and
self-pity, and if it's one thing I'm not, it's self-pitying.

Finally, the stewardess brings me my goddamn Bloody Mary.

She actually said, Drink it slow because this is your last one. I've had three,
big deal. Have I been unruly? I asked nicely. Her cat-ass lips puckered as she
lurched away. (The indignity of coach. What better proof of my fall from grace?
And now the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies wafts down from first class
to torment me, to remind me of all I've lost....)

You may be wondering why I had decided to end my life. I got ahead of myself
with the suicide note problem. Well, it's all about majesty, Tina.

My career was in the toilet. Hollywood graciously let me, some nobody shiksa
from Shawnee Falls, Ohio, into the magic kingdom, and I blew it. Three years at
Universal and the only movie I made was a hamster picture that grossed less than
we spent on catering. Then I'm on the street, without a hit or enough friends to
dine out on. A script of Don Quixote I'd optioned with my last ten grand had
just been passed on by every studio in town. I had no love, thanks to Michael's
mysterious departure, and what were the chances of my meeting someone truly
wonderful and marrying him and conceiving a child before my last egg dropped?
About the same odds of my father winning the Ohio Mega Millions Lotto. So, no
family to live for. No career. No cash. No hope.

What's more, I'm not the blonde I used to be. Highlights weren't cutting it; I
needed about three processes every eight weeks or I'd be found out, and, perhaps
the final straw (pardon the pun), a new stubborn pubicky hair had sprouted over
the right corner of my mouth, a truly horrendous harbinger of a mustache soon to
follow. A mustache! Things were bleak before that phone call and I don't think
that's an exaggeration. I don't think you can say I was being negative here. (A
mustache!) Jimmy Stewart had a helluva lot more to live for when he tried to off
himself in It's a Wonderful Life. What's incredible is that given how utterly
pathetic most people's lives are, more people don't do it.

I'd kill for a cigarette. When you're strapped into a twenty-ton tin can miles
above the earth, surrounded by stinking humanity, and you're flying to the scene
of the crime, aka your childhood home, you simply need a cigarette. Here's
another good reason to die. You can't smoke anywhere anymore. The Reign of
Virtue is winning, Tina. You watch. You're going to wake up one day and find
they've taken all the fun out of living.

I know what you're thinking. Sure. Eventually I might have gotten another
midlevel, unsatisfying job, and a midlevel, unsatisfying marriage to go with it;
with the help of science, maybe even some midlevel, unsatisfying kids, too, who,
when I was a retired and unfulfilled midlevel film executive, would hate me for
being neither famous nor a good parent-sure, all this could be mine, but the
question is, where was the majesty? Some people feel it when they make a stock
market killing, get a promotion, or see their kid make a touchdown, some when
they win an Oscar, run a marathon, and if you're one of those lucky bastards,
you might even feel the majesty one morning when you see the sun rise, or a
butterfly land on a sunflower, blah, blah, blah. Knowing myself as well as I do,
I knew majesty would not be found in the life that was yawning before me, and
that's when it hit me like one of those embroidered pillows: if you can't live a
majestic life, die a majestic death.

Ideally this would be in the line of nonprofit duty in Africa or India. Gunned
down by guerrillas while spooning rice into a starving but gorgeous brown
child's mouth. Or something more (seemingly) spontaneous and heroic: after I
pulled Steven Spielberg's drowning child or perhaps a chihuahua out of the
flooded Los Angeles River, my body would be swept to sea. That'd be majestic.

Or I could rid the world of some scum-take out some white supremacists, a
corrupt cop or pedophile-before turning the handgun on myself. I'd like to do
something noble, but I was feeling too desperate to organize that kind of
opportunity. Just killing myself would be simpler and quicker, and I enjoyed
imagining all my friends and enemies reading about my death and feeling real
sorry for what they'd done or not done as the case may be. The only thing
stopping me was the note, which is why I was still alive when the phone rang
yesterday and changed my plans.

Olivia? It's your father. He always identifies himself, even after all these
years as my father. He was hammered. I nearly hung up on him.

Oh,god ... honey ... It's your sister. He was weeping, too. What? What happened?

Maddie's got ...

All your life you try to imagine what bad news sounds like, but when you
actually hear bad news, it simply makes no sense; it's like being told the
definition of a black hole by a physicist, directions by a local, the evidence
of God by a priest. First you say, What?

Then, after it's repeated to you- It's leukemia. -you say: No. Olivia


Excerpted from The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters
by Elisabeth Robinson
Copyright © 2004 by Elisabeth Robinson.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 38 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic satisfying book

    Written entirely in letter format, its a refreshing and satisfying book. I found it grabbed my attention early and kept it. If you are in the mood for a solid easy read this would be the one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    Imaginative prose form, but not recommended

    I thought the start of the book was good. I could not finish this book though. I usually finish books that I start reading. It became redundant and for me, at least, unreadable. I got through one-third of the book and thought....there are better ways to spend my time. I read about 2-3 books per week. This is not my usual thought pattern. So, I do not recommend this book....Sorry

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This book was so good, I couldn't put it down. Loved it and wish she would write another book soon.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Unique Style

    I recently finished this book, and was so amazed that the author could convey so much in her book just by having her main character, Olivia, writing letters. I thought you really got a sense of all the characters and their lives through the letters. It was a really touching story, and I enjoyed it very much.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    Fun Book!

    This was a fun easy read! The entire book is letters that Olivia writes to several people. The time period covers a little over a year...and the changes that occur with her love life, career and family. It doesn't have a very deep or complicated plot....which sometimes is just what I want. I enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    Share this with your sister

    After I finished reading this book I sent it to my sister. Letter writing is a lost art and the author does it so well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2006

    Amazing Story telling

    It has been a very long time since I have been so captivated by a book that I lost sleep. Thought I had a little trouble getting into the first ten pages or so, by the time I'd hit page 15 I was hooked. By the time I got to page 50 I was staying up nights and running late for appointments to read it. (Yes, I'm slow) The True and Outstanding... is very fine rendering of a novel of passing in a unique format - all told in letters to other people from Olivia, a young woman possessing at the same time keen insights and stubborn blindness. The layering of Don Quixote serves as a map for the novel as well as a metaphore of Olivia's struggle to deal with her sister's cancer and her own baffling love life. It is not all a joust with a windmill, and so much of it is lived through Olivia's eyes I never wanted it to end. Yet, even though I saw that ending coming, and knew it was happening, even wished it would hurry up and get it over with, I wanted this book to go on, and wished somewhere deep inside that Olivia would write me a letter, too. I borrowed this book but tomorrow will buy myself a copy and several more for friends. Really wonderful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2006

    Great Read

    The thing I loved most about this book was the fact that I would forget that she was even writing letters to people and it felt like she was actually just telling a story. I thought that the format was great. I felt like I was getting to know these people she wrote to even though you never got to read a response letter from them. I recomend this book to anyone, oliva is a great character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2006

    An excellent book, but sometimes frustrating

    All in all, I loved this book and couldnt put it down. The format was refreshingly different, and the writing was excellent. However, there were spots that were frustrating because I would find myself trying to figure out (for the 20th time) who some of these people were, and what relation they were to the character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2005

    Terrific and entertaining book

    This book is really worth the read. With each page the story becomes more engrossing and the characters more intriguing, especially Olivia. In the end you will be delighted that you were given the opportunity to know these characters and share in their story. Elizabeth Robinson combines just the right amount of cynical humor with realistic poignancy. The reading of this touching tale is an adventure for the reader. The story tugs at your heart strings on one page, then has you chuckling out loud on the next. I highly recommend this book and suspect that you too will be glad you met and spent time with Mad Maddie and Livvie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Loved it

    This was a great book. It effected me within the first 20 pages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2005

    Great Novel

    This book will make you laugh & cry. If you or anyone close to you has ever been diagnosed with Cancer you be able to identify with the characters in the book. Overall, it's a very entertaining & funny book & definitely worth reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2005

    I love this novel!

    This book was not recommended to me, but something drew it to me, so I picked it up. I was immediately impressed, but was somewhat disheartened to discover the style of writing was what it was, but I continued reading, and about 5 pages later I was hooked. This story has it all, it captured me from beginning to end, and I couldn't put it down, I finished it in one week-end. Thank you Thank you Thank you for writing it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2005

    Parts dragged...

    I just finished this. It was all written in letter format which I love. I'd been wanting to read it for quite awhile and was happy to finally get my hands on it but I was a bit disappointed, it dragged badly for me in places and I finally ended up skimming a lot of her letters dealing with the movie she was working on. It had an abrubt but expected ending that made me want to cry for the last few pages, epsecially the final letter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2005

    Wonderful Book

    I really loved this book. I finished it in 2 days I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. I couldn't stop thinking of my own sisters through the entire book. I love to read a ton of different styles of books and its nice to read a letter form book. I was always wondering what olivia's friends and family really thought of her and you never really know it leaves alot up to the imagination. It was a nice change! A great bookclub book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2005

    Wonderfully original

    I don't have any sisters but can still relate to the closeness of siblings and all the feelings (good and bad) that entails. I loved this book. A sister who, even with her world crumbling around her ears, has her priorities straight and realizes just was is most important in life. Kudos to the author for putting family first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2005

    Love this book!!

    What a great book!! I have 3 sisters and I will be giving this to them on their birthdays this year. It touched my heart and made me laugh. I will be watching for this author's next book with anticipation. RECOMMEND!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2005

    An Outstanding Read

    A very unique read! The letters capture you from the beginning and draw you into Olivia's life. It is an intimate look at the life of two sisters and reminded me of my relationship with mine! Take the time to read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    Life is hard... get over it!

    The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, by Elisabeth Robinson is written in letterform. The main character, Olivia Hunt, writes touching, witty letters to all her friends and family. As a reader, you never get to read how people respond to her, but she always lets us know in her next letter. Her letters are filled with her personal thoughts that she would never be able to share with people in person. That is why she writes letters. She writes about how her job is going, and how she feels about stuff going on in her life. The book takes place in many different cities all over the world. A few are Shawnee Falls, Ohio; Las Angeles, California; Hollywood Hills, California; and Rome. Olivia travels a lot for her job as a movie producer. Sometimes while your reading you will forget where the characters are and it can get confusing. Olivia¿s Sister Madeline is diagnosed with cancer. Her family struggles a lot with knowing how to deal with it. It¿s sad but exciting at the same time to turn to the next page and see if Madeline can make it through this horrible sickness. It is funny to read letters Olivia writes to her sister¿s doctors when they aren¿t satisfying her with answers to many questions they all have. Olivia is a sassy character who isn¿t afraid to say what¿s on her mind. An example of her outgoingness is shown in this letter to her sister¿s doctor. ¿Dear Dr. Smith, My sister, Madeline Hunt Connor, has been treated by a lot of doctors, but no one as arrogant AND incompetent as the above-mentioned boob. What is it with you people? I¿ve never encountered such a bunch of self-impressed, ignorant idiots under one roof- and I¿ve worked in Hollywood.¿ Olivia is trying to produce a movie based on the book Don Quixote. Which in real life was made into a musical called ¿Man of La Mancha.¿ All throughout the book she talks about the struggles she is having, and also about the positive things that happen; which isn¿t very often. She writes letters to big movie stars like Mel Gibson, and works with the actor Robin Williams. Her work is like a roller coaster. There¿s ups, there¿s downs, and there are many plateaus. It¿s the hardest parts of the book to read because most people don¿t think about actually working with or being with famous people. The easier parts to read are when Olivia talks about her relationships and her family. It¿s easy to relate to and to laugh along with all her boyfriend problems. Her long-term boyfriend, Michael, left her in the beginning of the book. She misses him a lot, and writes letters to him a lot, even though he never responds. Eventually he does respond though, and you¿ll have to read the book yourself to find out if they get back together, or if Olivia moves on and finds new love, or any love at all. Even though the book seems unrealistic because of the people Olivia works with, it¿s still worth it to find out what happens to her sister, to her job as a producer, and to her love life.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2005

    Simply Wonderful

    This book instantly pulls you into the life of Olivia Hunt, and those she loves. It's heart-breaking, funny, and so true at times. It's definately not a book I'll forget in 6 months. I highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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