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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
188 Westborne Park Road
Portland, Oregon 97211
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
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.
Posted March 7, 2009
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.
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Posted February 19, 2012
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....SorryWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2009
Posted March 15, 2009
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2009
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2007
Posted November 28, 2006
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2006
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2006
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2005
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2005
Posted October 12, 2005
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 NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 12, 2005
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2005
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2005
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2005
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2005
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!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2005
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2005
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.
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Posted January 8, 2005
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 NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.