Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
Harper Perennial, 2009
Fiction; 273 pgs

I have been a fan of Wally Lamb since I read his novel, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True. He has a way of getting into the heads of his characters and bringing them to life. He tackles serious topics, steeped in emotion and morality. I knew going in that Wishin' and Hopin' was a different sort of novel for the author, but I still eagerly anticipated reading it.

Although I have never seen the movie A Christmas Story straight through (I watched the movie out of order--second half first and then caught the first half another time), the book reminded me a lot of that movie. Set in 1964, Wishin' and Hopin' is the story of Felix Funicello. His father runs a diner at the bus station and Felix is the 3rd cousin of the famous Annette Funicello. He is in the fifth grade and attends a Catholic school. Felix is the second smartest in class but is by no means a goody two shoes like the number one student, Rosalie. He gets into his share of trouble, sometimes unintentionally.

It's a big season for Felix and his family. His mother will be competing in a cooking contest on national television, he will be making an appearance on The Ranger Andy Ranger Show, and the school term promises to be an interesting one with the long-term substitute taking over his class after his regular teacher has a nervous breakdown (helped along by Felix himself).

Told from Felix's point of view, it was hard not to imagine being right back in the fifth grade again, a time between innocence and learning about the world. The characters are easy to love, especially young Felix. The author captures well the time period in which his story takes place, from the political and racial climate to the memorable pop culture--even for those of us born after that time.

I started singing Annette Funicello's Tall Paul right alongside Felix as I read in the lunchroom at work one afternoon. And then I couldn't help but do the same when Felix described his Halloween costume, dressed up as an Alka Selzter. I've been driving my husband batty with that jingle for years. Wishin' and Hopin' is a delightful story. Author Wally Lamb shows off his lighter side in this novel. It is funny and at times sentimental, but never overly so. It's a great book to kick off the holiday season.

Rating: * (Good +)

I hope you will check out what others had to say on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Book for review provided by the publisher.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I read this last year, but I honestly forgot so much. Maybe it was the chaos of the season. I may read it again this year just to get in the holiday mood.

  2. I had wanted to read this last year, but it was too popular at the library and I don't think my name came up until February :(

    I will reserve it now in the hopes of reading this year. I am ready for the holiday celebrations to begin

  3. I've been meaning to read Wally Lamb's books. I have I Know This Much Is True but not the other two. Wishin' and Hopin' is something I'd like to read too. Thanks for your review, Wendy!

  4. I love Wally Lamb, and have been wondering if this book is for me. From the sound of your review, this would probably make an excellent Christmas read for me, so I am going to go for it. Thanks for the great review!

  5. Sounds like a great holiday read. I love Wally Lamb. This sounds like a departure for him but I love him as a writer and am confident I would enjoy this one.

  6. I read this last year and thought it was charming.

  7. I haven't read anything by Wally Lamb but I did read a few good reviews on his books. Need to check them out. Thanks for your lovely review, Wendy! :)

  8. I read this (2) years ago I think and thought it was fun. Glad u had a chance to read it Wendy

  9. I love The Christmas Story. We watch it every year and I still laugh myself silly!! This one sounds like a fun Christmas read!!

  10. I haven't read this book yet but will read it this year, closer to Christmas. I love to read these books around the holidays!

    I watch Christmas Story several times every December. I love it, it's just a wonderful & funny movie!

    Glad you had the chance to read this & enjoyed it!
    Soon you will be up to your eyeballs in christmas cartoon movies and the like! What fun!

  11. Sounds like a fun book, I'l have to check it out.

  12. I haven't read Wally Lamb yet, but this sounds like a really Christmassy read! I don't think I'll have time to read it this year sadly, but I'll keep it in mind for next year.

  13. Christine - It seems like a good one to read around the holidays each year--or maybe every other year.

    Molly - I really think this one could be read anytime during the year, but since it ends around Christmas time, it feels more like a holiday novel.

    Alice - I really like Lamb's other books and would highly recommend them. This one's good too, but so different from his other books.

    Heather - I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it's definitely got a different flavor than his other books.

    Kathleen - I agree; he's a great writer. I really like the characters he comes up with.

    Kathy - Charming's a good word for it.

  14. Melody - I think you'd like his books, Melody. He tends to write long ones but this one is pretty short.

    Diane - It definitely had some laugh out loud moments.

    Staci - One of these days I'll watch A Christmas Story all the way through.

    Amy - I hope you enjoy it, Amy! I'm sure the cartoon movies will bring back plenty of memories. LOL There are a couple I still watch and love.

    Kris - It is fun. It is more a slice of life book than one with a straight forward plot, I thought. I really came to like Felix and his family.

    Kay - So many books to read . . . I know how that goes. :-)

  15. I've never read anything by Wally Lamb - it sounds like I'm really missing out! My mom's nickname as a child was Annette Funicello (in part because she looked a lot like her, and in part because her name was Annette Fontana) so I've always had a soft spot for her.

    Also, I saw your other post about the move being delayed - bummer. :( I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving anyway, and that you get to hear that baby's heartbeat again soon!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  16. Heather J. - That's funny about your mom being called Annette Funicello!

    The move hasn't been so much delayed as we just haven't yet gotten an offer for the house from the city. Nothing's been certain time wise, other than it will be happening "soonish". My definition of soonish and the city's are obviously not the same.

    I'll get to see the baby Monday and that will be even better than just hearing the heartbeat. :-) I can't wait!

  17. I'm a fan of Wally Lamb as well after reading his first two books. I'll have to read this one too.
    Great review.

  18. Naida - Thanks! He has another one I really want to read. One of these days . . .

  19. I have this ready to listen to this season. It's pretty much here, so I best get to it soon. :) Glad to see you liked it.

  20. Joy - It's hard to believe it's already that time of year again! I look forward to your thoughts on this one if you do read it this season, Joy.

  21. I'm glad to see you liked this one Wendy. I hope to start it soon. I'm behind a whole month on tour books with taking that month off. I hope to get them all read and posted throughout December.

  22. Darlene - I'm playing a bit of catch up myself but am not sure how will I'll manage. I hope you will enjoy this one, Darlene!


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