Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
When I first heard about this book, my reaction went something like this: “Tom Hanks?! Tom Hanks the actor? He wrote a book?! Tom Hanks? Really?!”
Write a book he did, kids.
Uncommon Type is a collection of short stories. Their only connection is that in each story there is a typewriter in some capacity. Sometimes it’s the impetus for the whole story, sometimes it’s just a background actor, but there’s one in each story.
The first three stories I really felt like I was reading stories told by Tom Hanks. The first story is one where best friends dabble in something more and it had a kind of You’ve Got Mail/When Harry Met Sally vibe (I know Tom Hanks isn’t in When Harry Met Sally). The second story, one of my favourites in the whole book, is set on Christmas Eve 1953, and sees a man enjoying the warmth of Christmas traditions with his young family while waiting for a phone call at midnight from a guy he served in the army with ten years earlier. The third story is one where an up and coming actor is on a press junket in Europe right when a huge scandal is uncovered that has to do with his co-star.
In all three of them, you can feel the influence of Hanks’ film career: romantic comedies, Band of Brothers, promoting movies.
That’s not criticism, by the way. I really enjoyed those stories! It was just interesting to me because we don’t often ‘know’ the authors so well.
Tom Hanks the author can write. His stories have a depth to them that I found surprising for short stories. I think that short stories have to be among the most challenging to write and he does so with aplomb. He manages to convey a lot in a short amount of space.
I didn’t know what to expect from this collection but I ended up being totally charmed very quickly. The stories he writes are so varied. There’s the one about the single mom in her new neighbourhood, deciding if she wants to have anything romantic to do with the man next door; the story about the bowling strikes that no one believes until they see it happen with their own eyes; the one about the mom coming to spend the weekend with her youngest son after the implosion of the marriage, of trying to impress him with a fast car and an airplane ride; and the one that revolves completely around a typewriter as a young woman in a period of transition spends $5 on a toy typewriter and ends up buying the real thing with visions of writing anything and everything down the road.
Given the chance to read more of Hanks’ work, I’d take it.