A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction.


Sixteen genre-bending stories as substantial as they are superbly crafted.

Melding science fiction, fantasy, fable, and legend with atmospheric prose, these stories touch on a wide range of topics: immigration, race, climate change, the inexorable millennial hustle, influencers, gun culture, and the fraught, electric urgency of friendship between adolescent girls. In "Thoughts and Prayers," silent, guano-dripping angels preside over a suburban neighborhood, their "pale humanoid faces and downy bird bodies perched beside our chimneys," each believed to bring blessings or misfortune to the family that resides beneath it. "Yaiza" deftly examines class tensions and the myth of meritocracy against a backdrop of tennis court rivalry between two preteen girls: Yaiza, a "scholarship girl," and the narrator, whose family has hired Yaiza's grandmother as their latest housekeeper. In "The Great Escape," the narrator's great-aunt, spurred by paranoia brought on by Alzheimer's and a long-ago forced marriage to the nephew of Rafael Trujillo, locks herself in her apartment with increasingly intricate and impenetrable devices. Once an aspiring artist who was left with no medium to ply but the life and belongings she carefully curated, she now "lost things so diligently it was like a religion," as she herself is being erased by loss, time, greed, and, finally, disease. "The Kite Maker"—set 12 years after the arrival and widespread massacre of a buglike alien species that crash-landed on Earth after their home planet was destroyed by an asteroid—looks at xenophobia and personal and collective cruelty and responsibility in the aftermath of tectonic shifts to the old social order. And in "The Rock Eaters," a generation of Latin American island dwellers who, as adolescents, developed the ability to float, "discovering [they] could fly as far as [they]’d ever wanted," returns to their home island, bringing their foreign-born children and gifts for their parents of "fancy foreign clothes we...couldn’t really afford...to show them we’d been right all this time to have flown away." During their visit, some of the children begin to develop their own flying abilities, but unlike their parents, they tether themselves to their abandoned ancestral lives and land, eating rocks and soil to keep themselves from drifting away.

A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313562-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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