The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson

The True and outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 326 pages (plus a reading group guide), 2004

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: It looked pleasant enough – like chick lit with a bit of bite to it.

Synopsis: Thirty-something Olivia Hunt has got a lot on her plate – she’s a
Hollywood producer trying desperately to get Don Quixote onto the big screen, her
last movie tanked and left her with a not-so-hot reputation, and her long-term boyfriend has recently just up and left. But then a drunken phone call from her father puts it all into
perspective: her younger sister, Maddie, the eternal optimist, has leukemia. Olivia finds
herself wading through a sea of maybes and has to take her chances on prioritizing her life
– what can wait and what can’t?

Why you should read this book: Robinson bravely confronts the fact that illness doesn’t – or can’t – always trump realities such as work and other relationships. Olivia has
real, hard decisions to make in regards to her sister, love life, and work. While depressing at times, The True and Outstanding Adventures is filled with life and laughter,
especially coming from Olivia’s Hollywood associates – she is, after all, trying to make a movie about an old man based on 400-year-old book when all Hollywood seems to want is beautiful women, big explosions, and a happy ending. The contrasting humour makes the book more readable (no weeping through the entire book, at least) without making light of Maddie’s situation. Robinson does a great job at capturing Olivia’s mixed bag of feelings (hope, denial, frustration, fear, love), especially considering the entire novel is written in letters, emails, and faxes.

Why you should avoid this book: This may not be the book for you if you don’t care what celebrities do in real life, much less in fictionalized lives. The author, Robinson, has worked in film herself, but there’s still a vague feeling of sponging off the successes of actors like Robin Williams and John Cleese, who take on ‘fictional’ roles in the book (mainly work-related; at least it didn’t turn into a People magazine gushfest). While some people may appreciate the realism in Olivia deciding at times she has to work to support herself and her pet project rather than sitting at Maddie’s bedside, some people may find Olivia a bit of a selfish character. Cancer and illness – and who’s responsible for caregiving – is a touchy subject, though, and all in an individual’s persepective. The format of the book (letters and emails) can leave a bit to be desired – it’s detailed writing, yes, but there’s an expectation that books should take things a little further than opening your hotmail every morning.

Opening paragraph:

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.

Fabulous quotes:

Last night we were watching the six o’clock news. After the reports on a stabbing in Cincinnati and some kid’s incredible science project, there was a piece on Robin Williams being in town for a charity bowling event. In fact, Robin Williams was the advertised story, because Robin Williams being in Shawnee Falls was certainly Big News.

Maddie said, Isn’t he who you want for your movie?
What movie?
Don Quixote? Didn’t you want him to play Sancho?
Or Danny DeVito. The studios all passed on the script.
But won’t they make it if he wants to? He’s huge.
(I explained you have to make stars financial offers or they don’t even read the script.)
What if you just left it at his his hotel? He must be staying at the Royal Oak, right? How do you know he wouldn’t read it?
Because fifty other dopes are leaving their scripts, thinking the same thing. He’ll have his assistant write a nice letter referring me to his agent.
You’re so negative.
Maybe Don Quixote is like his favorite book or something. You don’t know.
Maddie, it’s not the way it’s done, okay? You need –
It’s not the way you do it.
That’s right, and I’m the one doing it, not you –
And the way you do it is working so well.
She was annoying the hell out of me, but since she’s sick, I couldn’t ask her to lay off.

Dear David,
Thanks for offering to help me find financing for Don Quixote. I look forward to meeting the Columbians next week.
I’m a big fan of Michael Bay’s work – Bad Boys, Armageddon – who can argue with that box office, huh? – and his idea of updating the story, setting it in the American Southwest, making Quixote and Sancho men in their early twenties riding Harleys to an Eminem concert that turns into a terrorist hostage situation, is hard to resist. But it would require an entirely new script and cast, and I was trying to get this movie made, not secure another development deal. Thanks anyway.

Also recommended: The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy; Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani; Man and Boy by Tony Parsons; Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

Also by this author: The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters is Robinson’s first novel.

Fun tidbit: Robinson was an associate producer for the film Braveheart and a producer for Last Orders, a movie based on the Booker Prize-winning novel by Graham Swift.

Would I read more by this author? I would. Robinson is in a comfortable place between mindless fluff and literary fiction – light, but still thought-provoking and unpredictable.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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