A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

The Antichrist of Kokomo County

Skinner’s debut novel is a clever, funny chronicle of an apocalypse narrowly averted and of greatness diverted.

Franklin Bartholomew Horvath is a loser from a long line of losers. But at the outset of this story, he proclaims that his time as an inconsequential cog is about to come to an end and that he may be the savior of mankind. He’s about to enter the office of the former United Church of Satan in Berry, Indiana (they now call themselves the Church of the Epistemological Emendation to avoid harassment from the locals). He has a 9 mm handgun hidden in his pants and his 12-year-old son, Michael, nicknamed “Sparky,” in tow. Skinner then tells the story of what led Frankie to this desperate point. When Frankie was 12 years old, his father had an epiphany that there would be a “Great Horvath,” an exceptional person, in the family. Young Frankie is crushed to learn, though, that it won’t be him—but it could be his son. When Frankie finally has a kid, the local Rev. Phipps declares little Sparky the Antichrist. Frankie doesn’t believe it, but his wife buys it immediately. So he and his wife try to save the world by raising an unremarkable child, addling him with sugar and television and doing everything they can to keep him from excelling. (It’s also perfect revenge against Frankie’s father, who was counting on Sparky to be the Great Horvath.) This eventually leads to a showdown with the Satanists, which Frankie believes could decide the fate of humanity. Overall, this is a fantastically inventive story with plenty of fun twists that’s told with great humor. In Frankie, Skinner has created his own version of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980); Frankie is a bit more self-aware than Toole’s protagonist, but he’s no less deluded. The structure of the novel does make it seem like a bit of a shaggy dog story at times, and the author holds back a few details for a setup in a way that seems like cheating. However, the payoff is worth it.

A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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