Michael's Reviews > Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
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's review
Nov 07, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, humor, coming-of-age, religion, connecticut
Read in July, 2011

Nostalgic and sweet visitation of an early 60's childhood from the perspective of 10-year Felix Funicello over one Fall at a parochial school in a small Connecticut town. Your heart goes out to this underdog nerd of a kid as he negotiates the moral certitude of the nuns and priests with the Beatles as a chorus. After a customary birds and bees lesson he just doesn't quite have the story straight. His father leaves the sex education up to chance and his only sources are what he can gather from the lunch counter crowd at the place run by his family and an older friend.

Starting from innocent purity, he progresses toward Eros under the influences of more Beatles, posters of his famous third cousin Annette (of Musketeer/Beach Blanket Bingo fame), an earthy new French-Canadian teacher, and a feisty new Russian girl admitted to their 5th grade class. But his rich-girl nemesis and his confession to impure thoughts is touching, but he is heroic enough not to suffer too much from the punishment meted out. There are bullies about, but Felix is learning to outsmart them, enlisting a shield in the form of the Russian girl, who excels in sports to overcome being an outcast due to Cold War prejudices.

The biggest challenges to our young hero arise from his contribution to a teacher's nervous breakdown and from a humiliating mistake in distinguishing a dirty joke from a tame one, both occasions promoting some belly laughs on my part. All these forces and characters tat contribute to Felix's coming of age seem universal while lovingly portraying a particular time and place. The convergence of the narrative threads upon the school Christmas pageant makes for delightful final comic bonanza. We all know Felix is going to thrive somehow, and one can't help wondering how much of Wally Lamb's history aligns with this resilient kid.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-3 of 3) </span> <span class="smallText">(3 new)</span>

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Roxenne Smith I love your review. Couldn't have said it better. I just finished this book and the only difference between us is that I will give it five stars for its ability to make me laugh. There are so few wonderful humor books. Thanks for a fine review.

Michael Roxenne wrote: "I love your review. Couldn't have said it better. ...I will give it five stars for its ability to make me laugh. ..."

Much obliged. Makes my day.

Book Concierge My F2F book club chose this as our December read several years back. Agree it's a delightful read.

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