A thoughtful and gripping family tale that will haunt readers long after finishing it.

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A novel takes a deep dive into what goes wrong—and right—between a surrogate mother and the gay couple whose fertilized eggs she carries.

Donovan Gallo-Rigsdale and Chip Rigsdale have a solid marriage and now really want children. They engage Maggie Wingate to carry their fertilized eggs to term. This she does; all goes smoothly; and Donovan and Chip become the proud parents of Kai and Teddy. But a DNA test done some years later shows no genetic connection between Donovan and Kai. The egg he fertilized did not attach itself, and Kai is in fact the son of Maggie and her husband, Nick, conceived shortly after she accepted the donor eggs. This is extremely rare but is possible. To say that this news is cataclysmic is an understatement. Donovan and Chip have proved to be wonderful parents, but so are Maggie and Nick. The real tragedy—and strength—of this riveting story is that there are no villains here. The battle over Kai begins, the point of view toggling between Maggie and Donovan. Friedland is a very talented writer who creates rounded characters and gets deep into their heads: “The window” in Maggie’s brain “becomes a door, then a long hallway…into an enormous stadium, an arena, filled with” a certain dawning understanding. Maggie understands how much Donovan must love Kai, but the child is her own flesh and blood, and she and Nick have always wanted a brother for their son, Wyatt. Donovan has the added fear that the judge overseeing the case might be homophobic. But Donovan is no less of a fighter. And Donovan and Maggie are clashing not over a pet or a painting but a sensitive and very bright human being. It would seem that Kai is just as torn as his parents. Indeed, the underlying question in a case like this has to be what really, besides biology, defines a parent. (It is hard to imagine a better novel for a book club discussion.) The conclusion to all this comes with an absolutely stunning revelation.

A thoughtful and gripping family tale that will haunt readers long after finishing it.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-463097-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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