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on November 15, 2009
Wally Lamb's earlier novels "She's Come Undone", "I Know This Much Is True" and "The Hour I First Believed" are long serious works that are among the best of the last decade. This Holiday reminiscence is a delightful departure. If you were a child in the 60's you will relive a flood of fond memories. In that sense the book reminds me of Jean Shepherd's writing that was made into the movie "A Christmas Story." You will be transported back to a simpler time and see the holiday season through the eyes of a 5th grader dealing with parochial school, awakening sexuality, friends, enemies and family. The story is told with great humor and warmth. Happy holidays!
11 comment138 of 149 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
It must be an age thing but the older I get the more nostalgic I become and the more books like Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story appeal to me.

This little saga takes the reader back to the 60's when kids were really kids (and not little zombies tied by the "electronic umbilical cord" to either, their cell phone, computer, or i-pod). They went to school, were fearful of their teachers (instead of visa-versa), had no "rights" (except to learn the assigned classroom material) and actually came away from the experience with some knowledge of the "3 R's".

We follow Felix Funicello, a wide-eyed 10 year old boy and cousin of Annette, as he experiences the trepidation and wonder of a Catholic school education, the competitive harassment of a "tattle-tale" teachers pet, the deliciously terrifying ordeal of sitting through Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (the Bette Davis follow up to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) and trying not to show his fright, his mom competing in the Pillsbury Bake off hosted by non other than Ronald Reagan, the annual school pageant and a plethora of other every day happenings that most of us of "a certain age" can fondly recall.

I notice that a few reviewers felt the story was a bore. Perhaps this delightful trip down memory lane had to be experienced first hand in order to be appreciated. What we felt were mortifying situations in our youth suddenly become amusing anecdotes as we grow older and lines like, "her mouth dropped open like a glove compartment door with a broken latch" present a visual that many of us who owned "vintage" used cars can relate to. Although a complete departure from the tone and subject matter of his other works, Wally Lambs recounting of Felix's life lessons is nevertheless a heartwarming and amusing diversion and well worth the few hours of your time it takes to read. 3 1/2 stars
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on November 14, 2009
I read books a lot. Before I got the Kindle I had tons of books hanging around each room. I always read the reviews before I buy them, so thank you reviewers. This is my very first review, and only because there weren't any others on Wishin' and Hopin'

There has never been a time,when I wasn't first in line to get the new Wally Lamb book, after I read "She's come Undone". In fact I have bought more of "She's come Undone" to give away, that he and Mrs. Lamb may have enjoyed more than one meal out.

A Wishin' and Hopin' brought me back to 1965 when I lived in New London,CT. I waited at the Bus stop every afternoon to get a bus to see my new husband who was serving in the US Coast Guard in Groton. In "She's came undone", I was that little girl that grew up a fat girl. I had the same kind of father, only I lived in Brooklyn.

In Wishin' and Hopin' I again visited my youth in a RC Catholic grammar school. I had the same classmates, only my father made my Angel wings for the Christmas play. This book was a clear departure from his much longer novels. This one made me laugh long into the night. When Felix became the star to Christmas Show, I could not stop seeing him and his feet.

The Funicello family was as warm as any family should be. A welcome from the often dysfunctional families in his other books. Having a mom go on the TV with Art Linkletter, was great, but the trip to Hartford that Felix took the cake. His sister's were what every little boy didn't want, but needed.

Buy this book for old teachers, priest, schoolmates and past friends. It will light up their faces for Christmas. And I was never a goody-two-shoes more feisty like the new Russian student
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on November 14, 2009
Wally Lamb is one of very few authors that I will read everything he writes. His fourth novel is greatly different from the previous three, but is another solid effort by this great author. Narrated by ten year old Felix, the story is simple, but never boring. There were plenty of cultural references, but easily understood even if the 60s were not your generation. Many of Felix's antics were so clearly written that I have to wonder if Mr. Lamb was largely writing an autobiography. I especially liked the epilogue at the end, where the reader finds out what happened to each of the characters in the future. It provided a solid ending to the story that was just a short slice of life.

The story can be read in a few hours. Light a fire, make a mug of hot chocolate and settle in for an enjoyable afternoon of nostalgia and laugh out loud antics. Who else would ever write a story that includes hitting a bat with a bb pellet in the classroom?

My only complaint was that it was published with green ink. I understand it's a Christmas story, but I would have preferred black ink. If that's my biggest gripe, I can deal with it.

Great job Mr. Lamb. I look forward to the next!

Side note: I was fortunate to attend a book reading and signing last year and I could easily imagine Mr. Lamb reading the story out loud to his readers. If you ever have the chance to attend one of his signings, do it!
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on December 17, 2009
Don't read this book at work. People will wonder why you are sitting there laughing all by yourself. It takes a lot for a movie or a book to make me laugh. So much humor these days is just mean spirited or stupid. However, with this book, you are laughing at yourself as much as the character's in the book. It reminds you of all the funny and not so funny moments in your youth.
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on January 14, 2011
I first opened this book at around 2:15am one morning. I was blurry-eyed and frustrated when I started reading it. I had to get up early, and now I'd probably be unable to get back to sleep before day-break. To my surprise, I was laughing aloud by 3am! I mean seriously choking with laughter. Tears streaming down my face. I read until it was time for me to get up and go to the office, and I wasn't even sleepy because I was still on a high from laughing all morning.

It's a fun book, full of characters to love, even though I can't say I really got to know them as much as I would have liked. In fact, the only flaw in this story is it's length. It's too short! It ends well, but kind of abruptly. A perfect read for the holiday season, or any time of the year. A nice book to give to a Young Adult, but don't let that scare you away if you're older. The story is very reminiscent of A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film. But be warned, it has a little bit of adolescent sexuality. It would be wonderful if "Wishin and Hopin" could get a film treatment one day also.
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on November 6, 2010
Looking back over years to In December 1964 when Cassius Clay and the Beatles were kings, Felix Funicello, whose family's claim to fame is being a third cousin to Mickey's Annette, attended the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School in Connecticut. A fifth grader at the time, he, with the help of twice left back Lonny Flood, caused the meltdown (back then we said nervous breakdown) of their teacher Sisters Dymphna. At the time Felix, the smallest child in the fifth grade was going on Ronald Reagan's TV show Ranger Andy as a Junior Midshipmen and his mom was participating in the TV Pillsbury Bake Off show.

The school is doing a Christmas play production while the newest student is Russian tomboy Zhenya Kabakova who competed with the boys in their sports like dodgeball and "bezbull." All the students assumed she is a Soviet spy. Felix who was ranked as the second best student knew he could never catch the #1 Rosalie Twerski because she worked the teachers. When his mom melted down on TV frightening the host Reagan, Felix vows to save the family honor. Looking like the comic strip character Dondi, he goes on Ranger Andy and tells a dirty joke that turns Reagan's face red. However, it is the shenanigans involving the Christmas play that will go down in parochial school infamy.

This humorous hysterical historical tale targets two prime groups though other readers will appreciate the pranks too. Young adults will root for the feisty almost famous Felix and nostalgic boomers like me (elementary school student at the time) who know Annette by her first name and remember the Louisville Lip before he became Ali. Wally Lamb provides an engaging look at 1964, a pivotal year in American culture with the British invasion and our first environmentally conscious politician Lady Bird beautifying America. This is a winner.

Harriet Klausner
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on June 6, 2011
Rarely does a book make me laugh out loud! I found this book at my aunt's house over the holidays and read it in a weekend, it is a fun, delightful, and enjoyable read. Anybody whoever went to Parochial schools will have a particular appreciation for this book. I read Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" and found it impossible to put down (as disturbing and weird as it was). Lamb, goes in a totally different direction for this book and succeeds in bringing us to this world. He is an incredibly talented writer. Loved this book!
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on October 7, 2014
If you went to Catholic school in the 1960's - this is mandatory reading. I think Wally Lamb must have been sitting next to me. Hilarious and sweet and perfectly placed in time.
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on November 15, 2009
Set in New London, CT in 1964, this story portrays family, from the child's viewpoint, at its best -- loving, supportive, and full of hope. Wally Lamb captures and seamlessly presents the reality of a more innocent time and warms our hearts with laughter and appreciation in the process. A wonderful book!
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