LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone’s turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.
Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina’s word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone’s business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from QuÉbec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin’ and Hopin’ barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.
From the Funicello family’s bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we’ve been—and how far we’ve come. – Library Things
I first read Wally Lamb when She’s Come Undone was an Oprah’s Book Club pick. This is when I was still reading Oprah’s picks. I don’t read her picks anymore but that’s a story for a different day. I really liked She’s Come Undone I thought he did a good job a capturing a woman’s voice. I liked I Know This Much is True as well but I never got around to reading The Hour I First Believed, I’m not sure why. So, I was excited when I won Wishin’ and Hopin’ from Book Club Girl this month.
I really enjoyed Wishin’ and Hopin’. It’s totally different from the other Wally Lamb books I’ve read. It’s a short, sweet, lightly funny Christmas tale. But it’s more of a story of parochial school in the late 1960s. Felix is a charming young man with a loving family and good, if a little wild, friends. Having never been to parochial school I don’t know how accurate the story is but I am going to guess it’s not too far off the mark.
While not laugh out loud funny I found it amusing and very sweet. I really liked Felix and the relationship with his family. They were real-his sisters took good care of him, loved him and still teased him the way any self-respecting older sisters would. After reading many books where the families are dysfunctional this was a refreshing little story where the family loved and supported each other.
This in not an overly Christmas Chirstmas story which was nice since I was reading it before Thanksgiving. Starting with the driving out of poor Sister Dymphna-a laugh out loud funny scene for me-we follow Felix and his friends through the Halloween, Felix’s mother’s brush with fame at the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Felix’s own thrilling TV appearance on the Ranger Andy show, and culminating in the Christmas Program and the 5th grade’s “tableauz vivants”. Charming is the word I think best describes this book. I was thoroughly charmed by Felix and his adventures. I really enjoyed the Epilogue following where the characters are today. It definitely added to the charm of the book. I guess the one thing that completely won me over is the cover of the book. The boy on the cover could totally have been my brother at that age.