Strangers in Budapest: Book summary and reviews of Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener

Strangers in Budapest

by Jessica Keener

Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener X
Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2017
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A transporting novel about a couple trying to make a new life in a foreign land, only to find themselves drawn into a cultural, and generational, vendetta.

"You must not tell anyone ..."

Budapest is a city of secrets, a place where everything is opaque and nothing is as it seems. It is to this enigmatic city that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move with their infant son, shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. Annie hopes to escape the ghosts from her past; Will wants to take his chance as an entrepreneur in Hungary's newly developing economy.

But only a few months after moving there, they receive a secretive request from friends in the US to check up on an elderly stranger who also has recently arrived in Budapest. When they realize that his sole purpose for coming there is to exact revenge on a man who he seduced and then murdered his daughter, Will insists they have nothing to do with him. Annie, however, unable to resist anyone she feels may need her help, soon finds herself enmeshed in the old man's plan, caught up in a scheme that will end with death.

Atmospheric, secretive, much like the old Hungarian city itself, Strangers in Budapest is an intricately woven story of lives that intersect and pull apart, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You and Chris Pavone's The Expats. Keener has written a transporting novel about a couple trying to make a new life in a foreign land, only to find themselves drawn into a cultural, and generational, vendetta.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Keener immerses the reader in Budapest's postcommunist period in all its tumultuous glory. As the Gordons get in over their heads in their new city, the author combines strong characters and a riveting plot to craft a memorable novel." - Publishers Weekly

"Keener's (Night Swim) second novel is a slow burn of an international psychological thriller. Recommended for fans of Chris Pavone." - Library Journal

"Despite the book's bleak tone, Annie, Will, and Edward all draw our interest as people to care about, and Budapest becomes a powerful symbol of past horrors, lush culture, and an uncertain future. Reminiscent of Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), with its clueless immigrants abroad, and similar in tone and theme to Kim Brooks' historical novel, The Houseguest (2016)." - Booklist

"From the first pages of Strangers in Budapest, the words 'You must not tell anyone' made me feel as if a hand had reached out from the shadows to pull me under, and I was swept away inexorably by this hypnotic plot, these dark scenes, and the relentless tension. Budapest is a riveting, beautiful book that throbs with plot and sparkles with excellent prose." - Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

"A provocative novel about the power of the past - and our interpretations and misinterpretations of it - to haunt the present. An unlikely alliance between an elderly man and a young mother, both American ex-pats living in Budapest in the 1990s, brings this dilemma to life as the two struggle with their demons in a city unable to shake its own. A wonderful book." - B. A. Shapiro, author of The Muralist

"Jessica Keener has written a gorgeous, lyrical and sweeping novel about the tangled web of past and present. Set in a richly detailed Budapest, an American couple and their newly adopted son, there for the promise of building a business, become entangled with an irritable WWII vet hoping to settle a score. A story of confronting truths, acknowledging old wounds, and stepping into the present. Suspenseful, perceptive, fast-paced, and ultimately restorative." - Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue

"What do we run away from? And what do we run toward? Two American expatriates in Budapest, a lonely young mother with a devastating secret, and an old man desperate to discover the truth about his daughter's death, forge a shattering connection. Gorgeously told and deeply moving, Keener's brilliant new novel is a bold, brave and dazzlingly original tale about home, loss and the persistence of love." - Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World

"A taut, elegantly written, magnificent novel. I can touch, taste, smell, hear Budapest. Even the car alarms are rendered with beauty and precision. Jessica Keener turns pain and redemption into a masterful work of art." - Risa Miller, author of Welcome to Heavenly Heights

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Reader Reviews

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Lorraine P. (Lindenhurst, IL)

Hungary through differing eyes
The author presents us with a multifaceted plot starting with a wonderful look at Budapest, Hungary just after her Independence from Russia. We learn about her distrust of Americans but the love of the dollar and the still held bias of some of her citizens. I do plan on trying some of the sausages and liquor mentioned in the book. Any emotion you can think of is touched upon in the book, love, lust, anger, revenge, fear... Its peopled with a variety of characters, a WWII survivor seeking revenge, an American couple seeking to strike it rich and escape their past. I really enjoyed spending time getting to know everyone in this book. I just wish the author had an afterward on the current conditions in Hungary. A bit more on Hungarian food would have been appreciated too.

Annette S. (Duluth, GA)

Strangers in Budapest
Several reviews of Strangers in Budapest start with the sentence, "Budapest is a city of secrets, a place where everything is opaque and nothing is at it seems." That is exactly the atmosphere that Jessica Keener captures in this novel.

It is to this city that a young couple (Will and Annie Gordon) with their infant son Leo come in the 1990s so that Will can pursue a business opportunity that will build communication networks in rural Hungary. They soon befriend an elderly man who involves Annie in an act of revenge for the death of his daughter.

You will be immersed in Budapest's post-communist period. The strong characters and engrossing plot make this an unforgettable novel.

Sharon J. (Raleigh, NC)

Strangers in Budapest
The author, Jessica Keener, did a wonderful job weaving in the culture and history of Budapest with multiple story lines of dealing with loss of their loved ones. The main character, Annie, struggles to find truth with no so black and white events. The characters are well developed and make their time in Budapest very real.

Joyce W. (Rochester, MN)

Hungary's history
This book gave a very good description of Budapest. I toured there five years ago. The city is beautiful, especially at night from the river. The communist buildings are bleak and the country has a long history of being subjected to other countries domination. The author created an atmosphere of secrecy and foreboding which was well done. I would have preferred that the characters were more likable and that the ending be more creative.

Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Loved the setting! Story pretty good.
It's always a fascinating journey to read a story set in another country and culture. For that I nearly always love the book. This story was good...not perfect, but good. I didn't really feel it was a thriller or page turner, but I enjoyed the pace nonetheless. I enjoyed the complexity, grouchiness and secrets of Edward the most, while having only basic compassion for the Will and Annie. It was an enjoyable read and recommend it for that.

Ilyse B. (Howell, NJ)

Beautifully Written
This beautifully written story discusses many issues: impression vs truth, fact vs fiction and the lengths we will go for our family. Each character was fully developed, and I found it very interesting how they all viewed each other. There might not always be only one truth and many things can affect how we view the world. It was fascinating to put together all of the different perspectives. I love a good expat story and this one did not disappoint.

...15 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Jessica Keener is the author of the national bestselling novel Night Swim and a collection of award-winning short stories, Women in Bed. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, the Boston Globe, Agni, and other publications, and she has taught English literature and writing at Brown University, Boston University, the University of Miami, and GrubStreet. She lives in the Boston area. Learn more at www.jessicakeener.com

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First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
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