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
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.
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.
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.
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