The best letters are the ones that tell you everything. Not just the big, important stuff, but the little details of life. The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters is a one-sided epistolary novel. We get to read all the letters written by Olivia Hunt, erstwhile film producer, over the year she in which she learns that her sister Maddie has cancer. Olivia scuttles between her hometown in Ohio, where Maddie still lives, and Los Angeles, where she's trying to get a film version of Don Quixote off the ground. Along the way, she writes newsy letters to her best friend Tina, crabby mash notes to her ex-boyfriend Michael, worried missives to her parents, breezy memos to (real-life) entertainment honchos, and cheery entertainments to Maddie herself. These epistles are crammed full of the asides and rambling descriptions that make for good letters, and good books. She writes, for instance, "I went down to the cafeteria. Judy, the cashier, told me her daughter passed the Bar exam, so that was nice to hear. She said I looked tired. I ate some iceberg lettuce with orange dressing in the empty cafeteria. And two chocolate chip cookies." It's not poetry, but the orange dressing and the chatty cashier go a long way toward capturing hospital life.
It also helps that first-time author Elisabeth Robinson is a producer and screenwriter who worked on Braveheart (among others); she's just as detailed and knowing when she describes the seemingly Herculean task of producing a film. She includes gentle send-ups of Robin Williams and John Cleese, who star in the fictional picture, and terrifying glimpses of executive tantrums. (A Hollywood background has its downsides: the book occasionally strays into formula.) In the end, Robinson's hard work with all those details ultimately results in a believable, lovable heroine. --Claire Dederer, Amazon.com