Strangers in Budapest: A Novel
Eight months ago, Annie, Will, and their baby, Leo, moved to Budapest to chase the promising opportunities Will was certain awaited them. Will’s ambition as an entrepreneur, however, hasn’t amounted to much, and, despite the city’s beauty, Annie is restless. One afternoon, neighbors from back home make a mysterious request of the couple: to check in on an elderly acquaintance named Edward. Edward is in terrible health and not thrilled with Annie and Will’s meddling. However, Annie decides she wants to help him–not realizing that the kind of help Edward needs has more to do with violent revenge than with helping an old man with errands. Caught between the simmering expat world of start-ups and Edward’s escalating anger, Annie is thrust into Budapest’s darker side, where hope, change, and progress are no match for the horrors of the past.
Annie’s aimlessness and vague desire to help others make her an often-frustrating protagonist. The people who fascinate her most–a group of Roma who are roundly vilified–don’t wind up impacting the story as much as readers might hope, and the suspense stirred by Edward’s vendetta never fully intensifies. Still, the novel succeeds as a genuine love letter to a little-understood city, where even outsiders with the best intentions will always remain strangers.