The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

4.2 38
by Elisabeth Robinson, Linda Emond
     
 

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"Olivia Hunt's Hollywood life has come to a grinding halt. A hotshot producer accustomed to first-class amenities, Olivia has just been unceremoniously fired after her last movie tanked. Her boyfriend, Michael, has dumped her. And she's not the blonde she used to be: dark roots are coming in at an alarming rate. Her next project is a well-crafted suicide note." "Then… See more details below

Overview

"Olivia Hunt's Hollywood life has come to a grinding halt. A hotshot producer accustomed to first-class amenities, Olivia has just been unceremoniously fired after her last movie tanked. Her boyfriend, Michael, has dumped her. And she's not the blonde she used to be: dark roots are coming in at an alarming rate. Her next project is a well-crafted suicide note." "Then she finds out what real trouble is. Olivia's beloved sister, Maddie, is seriously ill. Maddie is living the life Olivia ran like hell from - she's happily married to her high school sweetheart and still living in the small town where they grew up. Stunned and bewildered, Olivia catches the next plane back home." Maddie's idealism and optimism have always driven Olivia crazy. Even now, when the odds aren't good, Maddie never doubts she'll beat them. But Olivia wonders, is hope just a way of kidding yourself? As if to answer that question, Maddie challenges Olivia to produce her dream film, the impossible-to-make Don Quixote. Olivia's life then becomes a tangle of movie sets, IV drips, and letters to Michael asking him what went wrong and if they might try again. When Maddie takes a turn for the worse, Olivia has to face the hardest choices life can offer. How can one person's heart so truly be in three places at once?

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Editorial Reviews

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
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
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:
9781586215866
Publisher:
Hachette Audio
Publication date:
01/28/2004
Edition description:
Unabridged, 5 Cassettes, 7 hours
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x (h) x 1.37(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

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
water.

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,


Olivia


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
Miller.

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

(Continues...)






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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What People are saying about this

Jennifer Egan
Elisabeth Robinson's epistolary odyssey renders up ruthless Hollywood and the forgiving Midwest with pathos, precision, and unfailing wit.
author of LOOK AT ME
Adriana Trigiani
a story to treasure...sisters everywhere will rejoice in the beautifully drawn characters of Olivia and Maddie, who are so real...you never want to let them go. I loved it!
author of LUCIA, LUCIA
Jay McInerney
Like a latter day Quixote, Elisabeth Robinson has taken on both in her first novel, and succeeded brilliantly...by turns hilarious and deeply moving.
author of BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY and MODEL BEHAVIOR
Jonathan Franzen
This is one of the funniest Hollywood novels I've ever read.
author of The Corrections

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