A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.



DicKard’s debut novel tells the story of multiple generations of female activists, environmentalists, and community organizers.

The author chronicles the lives of Eliza, who comes of age in the 1800s; Harmony, who lives in the present day; and Amisha, whose narrative begins in 2075. Eliza is the matriarch of the family and the owner of a special desk made of an oak’s “heart wood.” The desk imbues its owners with a love of the land and a calling to protect the Earth from ecological destruction. Harmony, the only character’s voice rendered in first person, witnesses firsthand the rapid environmental destruction caused by corporate manipulation and greed. She refuses to sell, or even leave, her homestead in Luna Valley, Northern California, as many of her neighbors have, and she commits to growing her own food and working with local environmental activists to offset a seemingly inevitable disaster. Decades later, Amisha will find her way back to this homestead in an effort to try to reconnect to the Earth. The desk inexplicably “call[s]” her back to her family’s property, where she pores through Harmony’s journals and communes with nature. She heeds Eliza’s warning from almost 200 years ago: “If we don’t make protecting our earth the heart of everything we do…then everything else we do will be in vain.” Over the course of this book, DicKard deftly oscillates among three time periods, which keeps the narrative moving forward at a brisk pace. Although the book can be polemical in tone, the author peppers her prose with lyricism; for example, like the women before her, Amisha finds solace in the forest’s “silence…like soft moss” or the scent of tomato: “old and earthy, touched with a tinge of long ago.” Striking metaphors (“Night closed its blanket of darkness”) paint a vivid portrait of the world and ominously show what could become of it if people don’t take the necessary steps to save it. Occasional moments, as when Harmony humorously calls email an “electronic phone tree,” provide a necessary levity in an otherwise sobering story.

A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.

Pub Date: March 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73453-640-9

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Sierra Muses Press

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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