Oh, Wally Lamb. He never, ever, ever fails to delight me. He can do no wrong.
As most of you probably know, I am a much, much bigger Halloween enthusiast than I am a Christmas enthusiast. I'm not that girl that starts listening to Christmas music on November 1st or begins to look for an excuse to put up the tree before Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, Christmas decorations/music/commercials/references before Thanksgiving really tick me off. I guess it's because Christmas seems to get closer and closer to stepping on Halloween's toes, and I just can't have that. So, it was a bit unnatural for me to choose a holiday-themed book to start reading the day before Thanksgiving. (I think I was just itching for some Wally Lamb, to be honest.) I'm so glad I read it, though; it was a perfect little nudge into the holiday season for me.
Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story is Wally Lamb's short novel set in 1960s Connecticut, narrated by 5th grader Felix Funicello. Last name sound familiar? It should. Felix's cousin is Annette Funicello, America's favorite Mouseketeer who went on to star in a string of beach movies and become a sex symbol. Felix's family owns a bus-stop lunch counter that has no shortage of Annette Funicello memorabilia. There's a lot going on in Felix's life aside from his famous cousin -- a quirky substitute teacher for his class at the local parochial school, his mother participating in a nation-wide baking competition, a strange new Russian classmate, some perplexing questions about the facts of life, and an upcoming school Christmas program.
I love books narrated by kids, especially if it's a book intended for adults. It's great to laugh at the innocence. Lamb is great at this particular aspect of the novel. For example, he somehow perfectly embodies a confused child trying to figure out what the dirty jokes, innuendos, and filthy language he encounters could possibly mean. I've always said this about Wally Lamb -- he is incredible when it comes to "becoming" his characters through prose. It's insane. Insanely good.
I saw a handful of reviewers on Amazon say that this book may not have been enjoyable to readers who wouldn't appreciate it as a walk down "memory lane" -- meaning, readers who weren't around for the 1960s. Well, I wasn't, and I enjoyed it all the same. I'm pretty sure if you were ever a child, you'd appreciate this book. Those incidents in your childhood that were, at the time, mortifying which you can now look back at and laugh? Yeah, they're all in here.
Don't be discouraged by the Christmas theme of the book. Actually, it starts out in October, and honestly the only part about Christmas is the last chapter or so about the school Christmas program. Definitely a great read any time of the year, but for me, it did help ease me into the holiday spirit. I can't recommend this book enough. It'll only take you a few hours to read. Come on. Do it!
Read from November 24, 2010 to November 28, 2010