Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: A Stranger Like You by Elizabeth Brundage

It isn't until you're in your car that you begin to cry and you hate your tears, you resent the ease with you've come undone. It is so definitively female --and yet it may be the essence of your strength, you just don't feel it now. Your colleagues always seem to bring the attention back to you, suggesting that your criticism is a consequence of some personal problem. They interpret the things you say as if you are speaking a different dialect of the same language--the subtle differences of inflection seem to weaken your position and they can easily rationalize and discount your opinions. It is, you admit, a sophisticated form of passive aggression.

One of the things I'm interested in doing as part of my slow down in reading is examining the books I'm excited about and figuring out which authors I'll continue to seek out new releases by. I want to return as much as possible, to the kind of reader I was before I got caught up in new releases. I want to be able to follow the whims of devouring a backlist or buying an author's book the minute it releases. So with each book I read, I'm really making a bigger judgement this the kind of book I want to keep reading?

I was very excited earlier this year to hear that Elizabeth Brundage had a new book coming out. Somebody Else's Daughter was the kind of thought provoking read I cherish most, one that isn't afraid to expose the darker side of humanity and examines character motivations and actions. Additionally, her prose is delightful, every word precise.

A Stranger Like You is this same sort of novel, one that continues to examine the way women are depicted in media and what sort of consequences that has in daily life. It's the story of Hugh a failed screenwriter who goes to L.A. to confront the woman responsible for seeing his script get cancelled from production. He is curious about her and he also wishes for her to know the extent of his agony. We spend a lot of time in Hugh's head and it's fascinating. He's sexually confused, unhappy in work and life, but not without moments of compassion. He's clearly a psychopath but he doesn't seem to have any grasp at all on just how damaged he is. He pays Hedda Chase (the producer who cancelled his script) a visit and things take a turn for the very nasty.

The book is divided into five sections and I have to say when I started the second section and it was in second person point of view, I almost set the book down. Second person is extremely difficult for me to read, but as a testament to Brundage's writing, I soon failed to notice. It was that masterful and I felt like I plunged deeply inside of Hedda's head and heart. I would even say that upon finishing the book, these second person POV sections were my favorite.

This is one of those novels where all the characters lives end up intersecting in some way. The third main character is that of Denny, a veteran from the Iraqi war who was shot and sent home. His spirit is in many ways crushed, he suffers from the agony of remembering war and seeking purpose in the dull life after. He's tormented by the memories of the things he's seen and the things he's done. And some of the things he did were pretty bad, and yet, I felt a tremendous amount of sympathy for him.

I really liked reading A Stranger Like You, the characterization was rich and the ideas that were explored were troubling and timely. The novel takes place in Los Angeles and I'm finding that I really enjoy these books set in a sort of darker L.A. that expose the seedier side of the city. I was fascinated by the internal struggle Hedda faced between producing art and making money and one of my favorite scenes in the book is when she confronts her male coworkers about their ideas of what is sexy to a woman. (i.e. not sex where a woman's head is getting bashed against a concrete wall) There are no answers in A Stranger Like You, but there are certainly timely questions, sharp observations, and great writing. I will, without a doubt, continue to read every book Elizabeth Brundage writes.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Profanity, Sex, Violence
Source of Book: Review copy received from publisher
Publisher: Viking Penguin


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.