Contemporary romance rooted in romantic comedies of the 1980’s and ’90’s? Sign. Me. Up.
I requested Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (Berkley, 2019) from the library the second it became available and I was still the second person in line…which was okay, because I had a stack of other books to read first, but wouldn’t you know, it became available on the Thursday of our vacation, when we wouldn’t return until Monday. But you better believe that as soon as we got home and I unpacked the bathroom bag and started our laundry, I was at the library, picking this up.
I realize I may have a problem.
Annie is twenty-seven, a freelance-writing loner who still lives in her childhood home with the nerdy Dungeons-and-Dragons-obsessed uncle who finished raising her after her parents died early, one after the other. The romantic comedies her mother raised her on are still front and center in her own heart; they are, in fact, the only action she’s getting these days. Unable to make a connection with guys, Annie’s holding out for Tom Hanks- not the celebrity himself, but what he represents from all of his romantic comedies: a guy who is kind, funny, thoughtful, a little sarcastic but with a heart of gold and the need for the same deep, forever kind of commitment she’s longing for. Of course, Annie’s best friend thinks she’s a little nuts, but Annie knows what she wants, and she refuses to settle for less.
The news breaks that a mega-famous director will be filming a rom-com in Annie’s neighborhood, and Annie can’t believe her luck when said director turns out to be her uncle’s college roommate. Annie’s in as his personal assistant, which means plenty of time to ogle/humiliate herself in front of Drew Danforth, the male lead of the film. He’s got a reputation as a Hollywood prankster, but before too long, Annie realizes she needs to forget all the old Hollywood stereotypes, because what she has with Drew just might be the real deal, if only she can believe in something slightly less perfect than that flawless rom-com she’s designed in her fantasies.
This was cute. All the references to the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan/Sandra Bullock romantic comedies of the 80’s and 90’s made my heart so, so happy. I binge watched everything that Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock were in during those years; I practically have the entire scripts of French Kiss and While You Were Sleeping memorized (you ever realize how creepy those movies would both be if someone tried to pull off the stunts that the main characters did in real life? Most romantic comedies are like that. All these people committing fraud and breaking and entering, among other crimes, in order to pretend to be someone they’re not is more than a little weird, to be honest. How did this genre grow so popular?). So a book that centered around the movies of my teenage years was enough to make my not-exactly-old-but-no-longer-young heart sing a little.
The premise drew me in a little more than the characters, however. Annie has the tragic rom-com character backstory, having lost both of her parents while still young, but her inability to change and her need to cling to the idea of the perfect happily-ever-after grew stale halfway through the book. Drew was more palatable, although at times I wondered what on earth possibly drew (ha!) him to Annie, with as wacky as her behavior could be. Uncle Don, however, was eleven thousand kinds of adorable, with his Dungeons and Dragons obsession, his awkwardness and nerdy side that dressed up as Chewbaca and could quote from all the nerd favorites: Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien. He completely and totally accepted himself for who he was, he was content with his simple life, and he loved the people around them exactly as they were. More Uncle Dons in fiction, please!
This is a light read, and would’ve made for a great vacation read, had it not appeared in the library when I was an eight hour car ride away. 😉 Waiting for Tom Hanks is not without its flaws, but it’s sweet and cute and will tug at your heartstrings if you spent way too much time in your youth wishing you could could wake up with hair just like Meg Ryan. (In this case, sadly, wishes never did come true. Alas.)