Felix Funicello is in the 5th grade at a Catholic elementary school. He's the youngest of three children, the only boy, and he's related, distantly but proudly, to Annette Funicello. Felix's family runs the lunch counter in the bus station and it's one of the places he learns about life, people, and how you get to make those people.
The other place is Aloysius Gonzaga Parochical school. Felix has a small hand in the sudden nervous breakdown of one Sister Dymphna which leads to the introduction of Madame Frechette. Madame is one of two lay teachers at Aloysius. Madame is from Quebec and she decides to teach the students French in place of religion. Felix also finds a new friend Zhenya, who becomes the geuhlfriend of Lonny, a student who's been held back at least twice!
We follow Felix, Lonny, Zhenya and Madame Frechette through the first semester of fifth grade. Learning about rules on the playground, saying confession, and the one and only black saint.
"Wait, till the NAACP hears about this!" That, and variations thereof, was one of my favorite lines in the book. It was often said by Marion Pemberton, male, and the only black student at St. Aloysius.
My ThoughtsEven though I wasn't yet born in 1964, I grew up during similar times. I enjoyed my look through the window of the local catholic school. Lamb used a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing that made it seem like you were reading Felix's diary. Especially since we got such an in-depth look at his growing awareness of the birds and the bees. The repetitiveness of the sex talk was a little off-putting but it might just be a boy thing. Felix wasn't so much exploring as trying to understand what all the older people were going on about. His dad never gave him any clear answers so he only had Lonny and Chino, and sometimes Zhenya to get his often misguided information. Wishin' and Hopin' was long on amusement though. I recommend it for a lighthearted look at the past. I would definitely look for more of Mr. Lamb's work!
About the Author
Wally Lamb is a Connecticut native who holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College. Lamb was in the ninth year of his twenty-five-year career as a high school English teacher at his alma mater, the Norwich Free Academy, when he began to write fiction in 1981. He has also taught writing at the University of Connecticut, where he directed the English Department’s creative writing program.
Wishin and Hopin Time Machine - provided by Mr. Lamb
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial for the opportunity to review this paperback.