Uncommon Type

Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky

This collection of short stories by actor Tom Hanks is not what I expected, but in a good way. Honestly, when I first picked up the book, I anticipated it sounding like an actor writing fictionalized short stories about Hollywood or movie sets or celebrity.

Instead, the book is a collection of 17 stories about a wide array of interesting, funny, sympathetic, and moving characters, in settings as varied and different as they are. They are also set in different times, including “Christmas Eve 1953” about a WWII veteran, his present day family, and the war memories that haunt him still.

In “Three Exhausting Weeks” we meet a slacker guy who ends up getting romantically involved with his overachieving, Type A friend Anna. Over the course of those three weeks, the reader sees his lifestyle drastically change, and you see Anna, the Type A girlfriend, as someone you both admire and think is just a little crazy.

“Welcome to Mars” is not a story about outer space or extra-terrestrials; it is a story about a father and a son. In “Alan Bean Plus Four” we are reunited with the characters from “Three Exhausting Weeks.” “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset” is written in newspaper style, with favorite sites and activities in New York City. “Stay With Us” is written in screenplay format and is a happy, feel-good story.

In these stories and the others in the book, Hanks fleshes out his characters and their circumstances and situations slowly with detail, depth, and clarity from beginning to end. Right up until almost the last page, you are learning more about these individuals and their lives, and for me, I was sorry to see the stories end; I wanted to keep reading about these people and their lives.

Another interesting feature is that a typewriter plays a role. In fact, a picture of a typewriter prefaces each new story. I found it an interesting addition, and I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Hanks had gone the old-fashioned route in writing these stories, doing so on a typewriter.

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