A formally diverse collection with exquisitely crafted stories about longing, striving, and learning what we can control.


A slim debut full of nuanced, cleareyed tales of unvarnished humanity.

In these 15 stories, Bhatt's characters struggle against the barriers imposed on them by gender, race, class, caste, location, and familial expectations. Creating a rich array of Indian immigrants, students abroad, repatriates, and people who have never left their villages, Bhatt skillfully probes the fault lines where desire shears against limitation, revealing the complex mix of luck, history, circumstance, and grit that determines which side will dominate. In "Pros and Cons," Urmi, a 45-year-old yoga instructor who has drifted through a series of semifulfilling careers, is considering moving on from yoga, never having led a class of her own. When she makes a bid at feeling in control by having an end-of-retreat affair with a fellow teacher, she begins to trust again "in the one precious sanctuary that is ours alone, ours forever." In "Life Spring," a woman who returned to Mumbai after divorcing her husband is rehydrated by a passionate encounter, which feeds her inspiration as a baker and catalyzes her determination to create her own recipe for a successful life. In "Journey to a Stepwell," newly engaged Vidya and her mother travel to her mother's ancestral home to fulfill a prenuptial tradition. Throughout the long, crowded bus ride, Vidya badgers her mother to tell her once again the story of four beautiful, unmarried sisters; as she listens to the elegantly told legend, to which her mother appends a new ending, Vidya tries to envision the shape her future will take. And in the title story, a group of Dalit men in the tiny village of Saakarpada discuss a series of local tragedies with a journalist from Mumbai. Though he's one of their low-caste brothers, they believe the writer from the city can't comprehend the indignities, rigidity, injustices, and dangers they regularly face, and they reveal only certain details, determined to manage their affairs in the same way they always have. Though, as in most collections, not every story stands at the same level, there are more than enough gems of polish and depth to satisfy.

A formally diverse collection with exquisitely crafted stories about longing, striving, and learning what we can control.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73336-726-4

Page Count: 180

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?