A warmhearted exploration of modern love with considerable psychological and philosophical insights.


In this coming-of-age novel set in 1995, a young woman starting graduate studies struggles with the vagaries of relationships, sexual orientation, and faith.

At the age of 23, Rachel Levine moves to Boston to begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology and to live with her 86-year-old grandfather, an observant Jew coping with the loss of his beloved wife. The two have a close bond, and Rachel serves as a needed companion but must keep parts of her life hidden. While she regularly accompanies Zayde (the Yiddish word for grandfather) to his synagogue, she is under strict instructions from her mother not to reveal to him her bisexual orientation. When she falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Liz Abraham, a brilliant young member of the congregation, she conceals it from him. The book examines the shifting plates of the religious community—more involvement of women and non-Jews in the rituals, to the consternation of Zayde. In her clinical training, under careful supervision, Rachel is learning how to enable her patients to handle change in their lives. Meanwhile, she becomes increasingly anxious about the uncertainties she faces. She is not confident about Liz’s commitment to her; her parents are uncomfortable with her bisexuality; and she fails to foresee some serious problems with a favorite patient. Her own experience with a skilled therapist grants her tremendous insights as she navigates some very rough waters. Rosenfeld’s novel is framed by events from 2019, indicating that Rachel has successfully achieved significant career and personal goals. Much time is spent on elaborate discussions of Jewish observance and beliefs, such as washing and sitting with a body between death and burial. The pacing flags at times for secular readers when these descriptions venture into the esoteric. The early romance of Rachel and Liz is a high point described with humor and zest. On an early date, Rachel explains to Liz that she doesn’t like spicy dishes but does love trying new foods, with the unspoken subtext: “I’m not into leather but don’t think that means I’m boring in bed.” The book’s descriptions of psychological disorders and treatments, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, are informative and extremely readable. Rachel’s therapist, Kevin Miller, summarizes the story’s message succinctly: “Rachel, the notion that we can have complete certainty about anything is a lie.”

A warmhearted exploration of modern love with considerable psychological and philosophical insights.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-059-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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