A scientifically intriguing, dramatic, and challenging read.


A historical novel that traces three generations of a New York family involved in a paleontological discovery.  

In 1917, there was a great celebration to honor the opening of the Central Park Reservoir, which received its water from a dammed lake that flooded the Catskills village of Gilboa. Wheelwright’s novel begins in 1993, when the city is decommissioning that same reservoir. Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver III is studying the park from his perch as a doorman at the St. Urban, a luxurious apartment building on Central Park West. He took the position in order to observe the actions of two St. Urban families—the Van Pelts and the DeAngeluses—and several employees at the nearby American Museum of Natural History, all of whom are historically connected to Gilboa. Kinsolver has some family secrets and scores to settle that are also connected to his Gilboa roots. The story rotates back and forth between the 1990s-set tale and the stories of two past generations of Kinsolver’s family. Running concurrent to the twisty tale of family sins is the complicated discussion of the fossils of the “Gilboa Tree,” remnants of an ancient forest believed to date back to the Devonian Period, 350 to 400 million years ago. There’s also an engaging subplot involving the amphibious lungfish—a creature that’s very similar to its Devonian ancestor—that has mysteriously appeared in the reservoir in the ’90s. Kinsolver is the first-person narrator of his own plotline and the third-person narrator of a historical saga that’s so complicated and full of characters and tangled relationships that readers will need great patience to keep track of them all despite the opening lineage chart. Overall, however, Wheelwright is a thoughtful, meticulous writer with a fondness for elegant, if rather lengthy, sentences, and his novel offers melancholic, philosophical musings on the frailties of one of Earth’s other successful species: Homo sapiens.

A scientifically intriguing, dramatic, and challenging read.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-953236-47-0

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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?