A sprawling debut with an urgent message about the danger of climate change that unfortunately gets lost in the clutter.


A young woman journeys to a remote island camp hailed as the solution for climate disaster.

In addition to the global environmental problem, 22-year-old Willa Marks has many problems of her own: Her paranoid parents died by joint suicide when she was 17, after which she was sent to Boston to live with her self-obsessed cousins. Yearning for a place to belong, Willa splits her time among her menial cafe job, the pseudo-anarchist Freegans, and Harvard sociologist Sylvia Gill, the mysterious woman who becomes her companion, then lover. After a nasty fight about how Sylvia isn't as committed to progressive causes as she claims to be, Willa locks herself in Sylvia's office and finds a copy of Living the Solution, a guidebook describing a place called Camp Hope, “humanity’s best shot for changing course” from its current track of climatological and general doom. Sparked with new purpose, Willa travels to the Bahamian island of Eleutheria, where Camp Hope is located. She discovers that everyone there can also disappoint her, from the icy crew members to mythlike leader Roy Adams, but she tries to remain committed to the cause. Will they achieve their ambitious goal of launching Camp Hope and saving the dying planet, or is it truly too late? The nonlinear narrative wends its way from the events of Willa’s past to her time at Camp Hope and after; sporadic flashbacks to Eleutheria’s founding bog things down further. The buildup of Sylvia and Willa’s complex relationship is well written, sure to please readers who love a good queer May-December romance, but the novel is too long on detail in many places and frustratingly short in others; the fraught relationship between the locals on Eleutheria and the crew members is hinted at but never fully fleshed out. Much of the novel’s momentum stalls in Willa’s long-winded, retrospective narration.

A sprawling debut with an urgent message about the danger of climate change that unfortunately gets lost in the clutter.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-31524-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A loose-limbed, bighearted Hollywood yarn.


A fictional account of the agony and ecstasy of making a movie, from someone who’d know.

For his sprightly debut novel, actor/writer/national treasure Hanks—author of the story collection Uncommon Type, 2017—imagines the making of Knightshade: The Lathe of Firefall, a mashup of Marvel-esque superhero fare, war story, and artsy melodrama. The movie’s concept seems like an unworkable, even bad idea, which is part of the point—Hanks stresses the notion that successful movies aren’t just a matter of story but the people who make them. So he’s assembled an engrossing cast of characters: Bob Falls, the World War II vet who served as a flamethrower in the Pacific theater and became a PTSD–struck biker; Robby Andersen, the nephew who turned him into alternative-comix antihero Firefall; Bill Johnson, the well-decorated Spielberg-ian director who acquires the Firefall property and writes the script; and the small army of actors, assistants, and technicians charged with shooting the film in the Northern California town of Lone Butte—on time, lest morale collapse and the budget inflate. Hanks ably depicts how easily things derail. The male lead’s ego wrecks the shooting schedule. A stray social media post complicates security. On-set flirtations threaten a marriage. But the novel reflects the sunny stick-to-it-iveness of many of Hanks’ roles, and his central thesis is that every movie’s true hero is anybody who reduces friction. To that end, his most enchanting and best-drawn characters are the director’s assistant, Al Mac-Teer (full name Allicia), and Ynez Gonzalez-Cruz, a ride-share driver with no movie experience but a knack for problem-solving. “Most of the film business is done by meeting folks,” one character says, and Hanks suggests that meeting the right people—and being kind to them—is half the battle of successful moviemaking. Overly romantic? Consider the source. Regardless, it’s a well-turned tale of a Hollywood (maybe) success. (Sikoryak illustrates some comic-book pages related to the Firefall backstory and film.)

A loose-limbed, bighearted Hollywood yarn.

Pub Date: May 9, 2023

ISBN: 9780525655596

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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