Waiting for Tom Hanks (2019) - Review

by - July 15, 2019


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Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

From the publisher:
A rom-com-obsessed romantic waiting for her perfect leading man learns that life doesn’t always go according to a script in this delightfully charming and funny novel.

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days…can he?


SPOILERS AHEAD

I was so very, very excited for this book. Tom Hanks being my favorite actor, and starring in 2 of my all-time favorite romantic comedies (You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle), this book felt like it had been written for me. The main character is obsessed with romantic comedies (uh, hello! me!) and once I started reading, I realized the author is from Ohio and the story takes place in Columbus, near German Village. I just so happen to live in Columbus so it was extra exciting to read a romantic comedy that revolves around a woman who loves romantic comedies living in my hometown. A scene even takes place in The Book Loft, which is one of my favorite places to walk to during my lunches at work. It's a bit of a hike but it's so worth it. So all of this conspired to get me even more hyped for this story. So you can imagine my intense disappointment at what a let down this was. Bear with me, because I have a lot to say.

Initially, the rom-com references are a lot of fun. Freelance writer Annie is looking for her version of Tom Hanks. Not the real Tom Hanks, but the Tom Hanks we see in his rom-coms. The Sam Baldwin and Joe Fox Tom Hanks. Her mother essentially raised Annie on romantic comedies, and Annie began to cling to them tightly after her mom passed away from a heart attack. There's nothing wrong with this. It's understandable for someone grieving to hold onto the things that bonded them with the person they lost. But after several pages of the rom-com references and Annie comparing her life to one, it became... unsettling. Concerning, even. Because this isn't just a heroine who loves romantic comedies, this is a heroine who is allowing her obsession with them to impact her life. She doesn't give men much of a chance if they don't live on a houseboat (spoiler alert! Columbus, Ohio does not have a body of water big enough for a houseboat). They seem to have to meet her strict rom-com requirements to consider them as a potential lover, and frankly, that's just not healthy. After about three or four chapters of the rom-com references and what should/would happen if her life were an actual romantic comedy, I started to feel rom-com fatigue. Okay, we get it. Annie likes romantic comedies. She wants her life to be a romantic comedy. She adores Nora Ephron. We are hit over the head with these details so often that I feel like Winfrey was either trying to beat it into us how disturbed Annie really is or maybe she just thinks we, as readers, are stupid.

Annie's best friend Chloe is gorgeous and works as a barista at Nick's, a coffee shop in German Village owned by... you guessed it, Nick. They have a flirty back and forth and Annie believes they are living a rom-com, so she decides to write a screenplay based on Chloe and Nick's relationship (without telling them). One day Chloe reads that a movie is going to be filmed a couple blocks down. It's going to be a romantic comedy starring Drew Danforth, a successful television star who is coming off of a big-budget bomb at the box office. She insists Annie get a job on the set, so she can meet Drew and live out her rom-com fantasy. This all seems impossible, but would you believe it? Annie's Uncle Don (whom she shares a mortgage-free victorian house with) was once roommates with the director! And would you believe that he has the director's number? And would you believe that after a five-minute phone call to said director, Annie is suddenly the director's assistant? What amazing luck Annie has. And of course, her "meet-cute" with Drew is splashing coffee all over him because that hasn't been done a dozen times before. Sigh.

By now, the book started to feel like a parody of rom-coms instead of an actual rom-com, something I would have embraced if that was the actual point. Annie compares everything she's doing to a rom-com. She believes everything happening in her life leading up to finding her Tom Hanks is the beginning montage of her own rom-com. She even mentions this to people, along with an insane amount of pop culture references, which Winfrey at least acknowledges as weird when other characters respond with confusion. But I'm not sure if Winfrey understood how weird it was, or if she was trying to make Annie quirky and funny?

Annie believes she and Drew are embroiled in an enemies to lovers trope. Except Drew is not her enemy. He calls her coffee girl because she spilled coffee on him, hangs out in a coffee shop and makes coffee runs for the director, but Annie finds this insanely insulting and thus begins to treat Drew horribly. He seems like a genuinely nice guy but everything he says she construes as him mocking her, or making fun of her, which is clearly not the case. She's just mean. After a nice "moment" in the Book Loft with Drew, Annie then decides to go on a date with Carter, a lighting guy on set. He seems like a nice guy too. He has a houseboat and a kid. Major Tom Hanks feels here, kids. But Annie spends the whole date just wanting to kiss him to see if things click into place and her rom-com life can begin. It doesn't go as planned as Annie realizes she does have feelings for Nick, but then Annie reads in a gossip rag that Drew is seen "canoodling" with Tarah and oh boy, you would think they were engaged to be married and she caught him cheating. She flies off the handle about it, screaming that she "broke up with Carter!" for him. Uh, no. Annie and Carter were not dating. They went on 2 casual dates. So why can Annie go out with guys but Drew has to be celibate? I'm so confused. This chick is crazy and when I read this line while Annie is looking at herself in the mirror, I was convinced of it:

"I hate you Drew Danforth," I whisper to my reflection with a smile.

We're entering Fatal Attraction territory now.

How Annie's friends and uncle hadn't called a therapist for her yet, I'll never know. To her credit, Chloe tries to make Annie understand that she's allowing romantic comedies to dictate her life, but I don't think Annie ever gets the message. Add in the expected catastrophe that forces Annie and Drew to spend the night together, and the "wrong text to the wrong person" mistake that drives them apart, and of course, a dash to the airport... I was left feeling so frustrated. I don't mind rom-com tropes at all when they're executed well, but it didn't work in this book at all. It doesn't help that Annie and Drew had zero chemistry, probably because Drew had zero character development. Gah.

Waiting for Tom Hanks had a fun premise but it got bogged down with an unlikable, immature, crazy pants heroine. There's no real conflict but Annie's preconceived notions about how love should be and her unhealthy obsession for rom-coms. I had trouble seeing what Drew was attracted to. She was awful to him from the beginning. I've ranted for a long time, and I apologize. I believe this book could have been so much better with a likable heroine, and maybe less rom-com/Tom Hanks references. By the end, I felt like Annie was more Annie Wilkes from Misery than Annie Reed from Sleepless in Seattle. Oof.




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