This is not traditionally a book that I would jump at but it sounded interesting so I gave it a try. Overall I would recommend it.
This is a varied collection – long, short, amusing, funny, sometimes moving – with several characters appearing in more than one story. Twists in the narrative often take the stories in unexpected directions.
Although these are written stories, they feel very visual as though they could be made into a series of TV episodes – “Tom Hanks Presents…”.
I have to make an observation about a book that I have never been compelled to do before: it suffers from an overabundance of typewriters. It shouldn’t be a surprise given the book’s cover, I suppose. If you have any kind of aversion to typewriters, this book is not for you. You may or may not have an aversion to typewriters by the time you finish this book.
Unsurprisingly, the author does a good job of reading his own material.
Here’s a round up:
Three Exhausting Weeks
An excellent way to start – a very funny look at the impact that a new lady can have on a man’s peaceful existence. This group of friends will make more appearances later in the book.
Christmas Eve 1953
Starts as a warm tale about the festive period but then takes a disturbing turn as the main character remembers his war experiences. Not a story I would have expected to get from Tom Hanks, which probably made the impact greater (although when you think about it he has done Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan so is no stranger to portraying WW2). Opens up the prospect that this collection might not be quite what you were expecting.
A Junket in the City of Light
A highly enjoyable look at the behind-the-scenes life of a supporting actor on a promotional tour for a blockbuster film. I’m sure that many a performer has been through this kind of experience – probably on a Tom Cruise movie or… a Tom Hanks film.
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – An Elephant in the Press Room
A short reflection on the loss of a printed edition of a newspaper – something close to my heart.
Welcome to Mars
The first story that did not really appeal. An overly long look at a father and son bonding at the beach where I just lost interest.
A Month on Greene Street
A recently-divorced woman and her children move to a new home in a new neighbourhood. How accurate are her first impressions?
Alan Bean Plus Four
The group of friends from “Three Exhausting Weeks” return in a fantasy tale about organising and launching a mission around the moon. A novel idea and a good cast of characters.
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – At Loose in the Big Apple
Hank’s back too, this time getting a bit too repetitive about a trip to New York.
A return to form – an actress chases her dream in late 1970s New York.
A Special Weekend
A son is taken on a birthday trip by his mum. This is the longest story so far and the first time that Hanks’s style comes across as a plod, the story taking forever to get started (does it ever?) and the narration lacking any real spark. Yet another fractured family and my interest in the typewriter is waning.
These are the Meditations of My Heart
My interest in the typewriter is restored. If you are going to write about typewriters, don’t try to shoehorn them into the narrative when no-one is looking. Write an ode to the typewriter, a love letter. Like this.
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – Back From Back In Time
Hey, hey! It’s Hank again. Does he redeem himself this time? Yes, despite talking about typewriters.
The Past is Important to Us
A lovely story, up with the best. An intriguing mix of time travel and infatuation.
Go See Costas
A Bulgarian man works his way to America on a ship. These are his first few days in New York.
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – Your Evangelista, Esperanza
Hey, Hank buddy – are you still talking? Must be the caffeine, as our favourite columnist tackles the subject of coffee (and typewriters).
Steve Wong is Perfect
Anna and the boys are back, this time for a spot of expert 10 pin bowling.
Stay With Us
A new auditory experience awaits those who have made it this far – actors take on the main character roles as Hanks keeps hold of the reins as narrator. Shame he decided to include this unnecessary pile of horseshit. Finishing with “Steve Wong is Perfect” would have been perfect. This almost murders everything that has gone before. Ignore it. This is Hollywood ego bullshit crap.
It is the story of a group of young black guys from a rough part of Los Angeles who are sent on a road trip across America to kill a judge when their narcotics operation is busted by the police.
Its pared-back tone belies the book’s emotional impact. This is more than a journey in a van for the main character – it is a rite of passage. I read through the second half of the book in one sitting one evening and found myself thinking about it all the next morning.
Somehow I managed to miss the fact that there was an audiobook version (it sounds good too…), so I went with the paper version.
Given that the book clocks in at only 300 pages there is a lot of story and character development built in. A number of twists happen out of the blue and without fanfare that mess with the boys’ mission.
I wondered about the plausibility of such young characters being able to do what the plot asks of them but it becomes clear as the story progresses that it wouldn’t be difficult for people to disappear through the cracks of society and never be found. If anybody actually cares enough to look for them in the first place.
Take care if you are sensitive to sometimes harsh language. These are young guys gassing amongst themselves in a confined space. Reflect on this and decide accordingly.
I’m very pleased that I chose to hitch a ride on this particular literary adventure and would highly recommend it.
Wouldn’t fancy doing it for real though.