Jessica Keener

  • 2017
  • Algonquin Books
  • Paperback, Audio, Kindle
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Strangers in Budapest

IndieNext List - Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust An IndieNext Pick - 2017 & 2018

  • "Best New Book" — Chicago Review of Books
  • "Best Books of 2017" — January Magazine
  • "Best New Books" — Entertainment Weekly
  • "Best New Books" — Real Simple
  • Southern Independent Bestseller List, November 2018
  • A Sandhills/Piedmont North Carolina Regional Bestseller

Budapest: gorgeous city of secrets, with ties to a shadowy, bloody past. It is to this enigmatic European capital that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move from Boston with their infant son shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. For Annie, it is an effort to escape the ghosts that haunt her past, and Will wants simply to seize the chance to build a new future for his family.

Eight months after their move, their efforts to assimilate are thrown into turmoil when they receive a message from friends in the US asking that they check up on an elderly man, a fiercely independent Jewish American WWII veteran who helped free Hungarian Jews from a Nazi prison camp. They soon learn that the man, Edward Weiss, has come to Hungary to exact revenge on someone he is convinced seduced, married, and then murdered his daughter.

Annie, unable to resist anyone’s call for help, recklessly joins in the old man’s plan to track down his former son-in-law and confront him, while Will, pragmatic and cautious by nature, insists they have nothing to do with Weiss and his vendetta. What Annie does not anticipate is that in helping Edward she will become enmeshed in a dark and deadly conflict that will end in tragedy and a stunning loss of innocence.

Media and praise for Strangers in Budapest

"Jessica Keener writes about post-communist Hungary with the heart and specificity of someone who's lived it...her writing sparkles [and] twists keep the pages turning fast. Strangers in Budapest doesn't exoticize or patronize its location; rather, in a rare achievement for an American novel of this international emphasis, it revels in the complexity of its appeal." Entertainment Weekly

"Full of seduction and intrigue, this thrilling novel is a perfect homage to a city in transition." Real Simple

"In her tense and atmospheric thriller...Keener establishes a definitive sense of time and place, makes a sensitive portrait of expat life, and examines ideas of what we lose, where we find home, and how love can and cannot survive." Boston Globe

"With chills lurking around each corner, the perfect page-turner for late autumn." Boston Magazine

"This haunting, beautifully written story emerges from the shadows and narrow streets of Budapest and its historic mysteries to raise intriguing questions about the power of the past, grief, guilt, the endurance of pain and whether redemption is a worthy goal." Hadassah Magazine

"[A] literary explorer of the human psyche and mysteries of life." Friends of the South End Library (Boston, MA)

"Moody and captivating...Keener's Budapest [is] a rough-edged, darkly beautiful city rushing into the future. It makes for an ideal place in which to explore themes of loss, love, and the courage required to come to terms with the past." Jewish Book Council

"A beautifully written mystery...atmospheric and ominous, this novel asks us what we're willing to do to start over in a new world when the old world won't let us go." Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Ballad

"With lyrical prose, Keener examines grief and guilt, deception and hatred, and the search for an elusive redemption. Strangers in Budapest is a remarkable novel that continues to haunt me, weeks after I reached its powerful, unexpected conclusion." Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of City of Light, A Fierce Radiance, and And After the Fire

"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, relentless tension. Strangers in Budapest is a riveting, beautiful book that throbs with plot and sparkles with excellent prose." Lydia Netzer, author of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

"A provocative novel about the power of the past—and our interpretations and misinterpretations of it—to haunt the present. A wonderful book." B. A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger

"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, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World

"Keener's writing is unquestionably skillful. Her ability to render multidimensional characters through sophisticated description and dialogue is excellent." Chicago Review of Books

"A genuine love letter to a little-understood city, where even outsiders with the best intentions will always remain strangers." Manhattan Book Review

"Masterful...Fans of slow-burn suspense novels, who also enjoy fish-out-of-water situations, will find much to love here." Book Reporter

"Captivates the reader in the first few pages. Engrossing...The characters are full bodied, personable, and believable. The setting is described thoughtfully and with care. It is a fast-paced page turner that will leave the readers deep in contemplation." Portland Book Review

"A slow burn of an international psychological thriller. Recommended for fans of Chris Pavone." Library Journal

"A fabulously complex and mysterious tale that is full of atmosphere and suspense...A powerfully provocative psychological thriller that combines engaging characters with a gripping and darkly atmospheric plot. This novel's gut wrenching discussion of how our past actions often affect our present is both poignant and thought provoking. Within its pages, Keener masterfully examines sorrow and remorse, dishonesty and loathing, and the ultimate search for unattainable redemption, truth, and love." New York Journal of Books

"Keener immerses the reader in Budapest's postcommunist period in all its tumultuous glory...The author combines strong characters and a riveting plot to craft a memorable novel." Publishers Weekly

"Keener's second psychological novel, set in modern Hungary, dramatizes both national and personal outcomes of harrowing past events. Budapest becomes a powerful symbol of past horrors, lush culture, and an uncertain future. Reminiscent of Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street ...and similar in tone and theme to Kim Brooks' historical novel, The Houseguest." Booklist

"Keener expertly weaves together a story that not only showcases an expat life, but also shares the tragedies, memories and grudges of strangers in a beautiful city who are more connected than they have come to believe." BookPage

"In Keener's Strangers in Budapest, the city is as much a character as any, and as Annie and others begin to cave under its crumbling weight, what's revealed where East meets West is a story about the implacability of the past—present, progress, and denials notwithstanding." Foreword Reviews

"A mesmerizing story of love and loss, Keener probes the depths to which grief and disappointment can drive a person away from those who only wish to love them." Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King's Daughter

"This exquisite novel draws the reader in from the very first pages and refuses to let go. Jessica Keener proves once again that she is a brilliant, lyrical writer with a true understanding of the human heart." Ellen Marie Wiseman, internationally bestselling author of The Plum Tree, What She Left Behind, Coal River and The Life She Was Given

"[A] riveting novel of conscience and suspense, multiple strands of fate and guilt, cultural memory and private trauma overlap and tighten into an ethical knot of compelling, hypnotic design. An enthralling read!" Melissa Pritchard, award-winning author of Palermo

"Strangers in Budapest is both lyrical and propulsive, capacious and rich in detail. The characters will stay with you forever. A courageous, compassionate and deeply wise novel." Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point