Monday, January 04, 2010

Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb

Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb is one of those ubiquitous Christmas novels that seem to clutter the bookstore displays through December. Normally, I cringe from such things but a few years ago I surprisingly enjoyed one such novel and, since I truly adored Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, I thought I might actually enjoy this novel. For those readers who enjoy A Christmas Story, this novel will feel like that movie’s child, a later generation’s version of the holidays. Told through the crisply defined voice of Felix Funicello (an imaginary distant cousin of former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello), life in a Catholic school during the less idealistic 1960’s (post President Kennedy’s assassination) and in an Italian American Connecticut home unfolds in funny and blunt ways. Felix’ older sisters play a rather small, nearly meaningless role and one could argue that Lamb could have easily dropped one without compromising the content. There are cultural allusions made that touch on everything from the Cold War to music to fashion. The book is not meant to be anything but a bit of fluff to amuse the reader during the holidays and Lamb does a wonderful job of defining the narrator’s voice. One can easily imagine this novel being made into a movie although odds are it wouldn’t measure up to the novel’s quirky fun. With all this said, while I will never forget moments in I Know This Much is True, I highly doubt that a year from now I’ll remember much about this story because it didn’t affect me as thoroughly as did the previous novel’s narrative. But I didn’t expect much more than what I read and am tremendously grateful it didn’t live down to my worst expectations.

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