Strangers in Budapest

I have been reading, I haven’t been reporting. Actually, I’ve started several books, but lost interest. You know how that goes. Much of my other reading has been “work” related. That’s a little white lie because I am retired. I can’t get enough of theological reading. Two books on the Gospel of John.

Jessica Keener has given us an excellent story. It is based on her experiences of living for a year in Budapest with her husband and infant son in 1993. Change the names and you have part of the story line.

The timing is important for this story. It could not have happened a decade earlier and certainly not two decades later. Hungary had just opened to the west and American businesses were clambering to get in on the newly opened capitalistic markets of the former Soviet satellite.

The central character is Annie who cares for son Leo and helps husband Will as he tries to set up a cell phone system in a country that does not know how to do capitalism. In the first chapter they are on their way to visit Mr. Edward Weiss, an elderly American who moved a few months earlier to the Pest side of River Duna, known to us as the Danube.

Mr. Weiss lives in a borrowed apartment and the owners asked Annie and Will to look in on him because he is in poor health. The visit changes everything for Annie. She is drawn to him and slowly becomes a helper in his obsession to find his former son-in-law whom Weiss believes killed his daughter.

Of course, Annie does not know that for some time, but she knows something is wrong and she knows the Weiss can’t do much on his own.

Keener does a great job of building and holding suspense while giving us a guided tour of one of Europe’s great ancient cities. I did not know Keener had lived there when I began reading, but I was pretty sure she had as I read chapter one.

Mike Lawrence

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