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Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story

3.8 223
by Wally Lamb

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It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.

LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said


It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.

LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.

Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from Québec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin' and Hopin' barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.

From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin' and Hopin' is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been—and how far we've come.

Editorial Reviews

Kristi Lanier
Narrator Felix Funicello calls Wishin' and Hopin' his "act of contrition" for schoolboy transgressions. But in the hands of Wally Lamb, what emerges isn't an apology but a celebration of life—flawed, goofy, wonderful life…Felix makes a hilarious guide through a story that whirs right along.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
In this charming departure for Lamb (The Hour I First Believed), feisty fifth grader Felix Funicello (yes, distant cousin to Annette) anticipates Christmas. It's 1964 in blue-collar Connecticut, and Felix worries that he's caused Sister Dymphna's mental breakdown. When the school's Christmas pageant rolls around, the school brownnoser and the new Russian girl duke it out over who gets to play Mary. Full of pop-culture references of the day (the Beatles, for example, as well as the Queen Mouseketeer), this will have broad appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
Lightweight holiday fare in the entirely predictable subgenre of What Else Can Go Wrong at the Christmas Pageant?Lamb (The Hour I First Believed, 2008, etc.) takes half the novel just to get around to Yuletide. Up until that time, he lays sometimes laborious, sometimes lighthearted groundwork at the Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School of New London, Conn., in the fall of 1964. It seems that Sister Dymphna has had a serious emotional meltdown in front of her class, necessitating the arrival of fearsome but charismatic Madame Marguerite Frechette, a Quebecoise whose gifts include directing plays-or in this case a set of tableaux vivants for the school's Christmas production. Fifth-grader Felix Funicello is both narrator and imp of the perverse. And yes, his family is related to the renowned Annette Funicello, whose posters adorn the walls at the bus-depot lunch counter Felix's father runs. (At one point the boy has to confess to a priest that he French-kissed the sexy poster of Annette in her How to Stuff a Wild Bikini phase.) Bad luck stalks Felix like an obstinate shadow, especially as three big events are beginning to intersect in his life: the aforementioned Christmas program, his mother's appearance as a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off (her recipe: Shepherd's Pie Italiano) and Felix's TV debut on The Ranger Andy Show. Readers obviously collude in the deal, for they know that nothing good will happen on any of these fronts. Sure enough, the pageant performers embarrass themselves and their parents with inappropriate off-the-cuff witticisms; Ma gets the trots during her appearance on Art Linkletter's show (the shepherd's pie burns); and Felix tells Ranger Andy an off-color joke that ofcourse is carried live on local networks. Our narrator has two foils here: the egregiously obnoxious Rosalie Twerski (aka "Turdski"), who desperately wants the part of Mary in the pageant, and the exotic Zhenya Kabakova, newly arrived from Russia and suspected (by Rosalie) of being a communist. Flimsy and barely entertaining.
Body and Soul
“Wishin’ and Hopin’ from Wally Lamb reminds us of what innocence was like.”
USA Today
“Lamb...proves he can be short, sweet and funny”
Columbus Dispatch
“Humorous and heartwarming…clever and well-written…A fun trip down memory lane from a skilled writer. The stocking stuffer might just become a cherished possession.”
Hartford Books Examiner
“Both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny…a cast of characters that are both uproarious and unforgettable…a poignant reminder that family and friends are the greatest gift of all.”
St. Petersburg Times
“Lamb gets Felix’s voice just right, and he does a spot-on job of evoking the special joys and trials of parochial school in the ‘60’s”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Lamb’s rich panoply of details...render this novel first-rate escapism just begging for a comforter and a cup of tea.”
Miami Herald
“Lamb’s vividly detailed portrait of the 1960’s and the inner workings of a Catholic schoolboy’s mind puts his first Christmas book on par with his previous three novels.”
Houston Chronicle
“Lamb is a very good writer, and Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a charming read with a genuinely funny ending.”
Washington Post
“In the hands of Wally Lamb, what emerges isn’t an apology but a celebration of life...Felix makes a hilarious guide through a story that whirs right along.”
Kansas City Star
“Warmly, sweetly retro”
We might as well call Wally Lamb the man with the golden pen...[Wishin’ and Hopin’] will leave you laughing and thinking nostalgically about your own school days and holidays past”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Wally Lamb is the author of four previous novels, including the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed and Wishin' and Hopin', a bestselling novella. His first two works of fiction, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number-one New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine. The Lambs are the parents of three sons.

Brief Biography

Willimantic, Connecticut
Date of Birth:
October 17, 1950
Place of Birth:
Norwich, Connecticut
B.A. in Education, University of Connecticut, 1972; M.A. in Education, 1977; M.F.A. in Writing, Vermont College, 1984

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Wishin' and Hopin' 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 223 reviews.
msfinnegan More than 1 year ago
When you are reading Wally Lamb's lastest book you will smile all of the time and laugh out loud half of the time. Did you attend Catholic grade school during the 1960's? Then run don't walk to the book store and pick up this delightful Christmas treasure. Wonderful stocking stuffer. Mr. Lamb kept this book under 275 pages. Wally if you read these reviews, please bring us more stories about Felix and his family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a charming book. I have always enjoyed Wally Lamb's other books and it was quite refreshing to have something so humorous from him. While I never attended parochial schools, I feel that I know what one is like from the book. It has a real charm about it and will become one of my annual Christmas traditions. Happy Holidays Everybody!
Bremyer More than 1 year ago
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.
Addison3 More than 1 year ago
If you would like to venture into the world of a fifth grade boy going through his family and school life this is a must read! Wally Lamb captures the mind of child perfectly and hilariously. I giggled out loud on every page, in every chapter! This is a light hearted book I will read over and over again.
GranbyLibraryBookClub More than 1 year ago
Our book group gave "Wishin’ and Hopin’" 4.5 stars! What a fun, light quaint read with wonderful "come to life" characters. So many characters in the book are very memorable. Those book group members that went to parochial schools truly related to the story's main setting. Lamb gave the group flashbacks to commercials, TV shows...of the mid- sixties. Well written, would recommend! Left us wishin’ and hopin’ for more Wally Lamb!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I had high hopes being that Lamb is one of my favorite authors, and he didn't disappoint! A great read this time of year.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book quickly, as I do all of Mr Lamb's books...I was thrilled to see another book out so soon from him! It was charming, and like all his books, his narrative feels authentic. She's Come Undone has been my favorite book since it was first chosen for Oprah's book club, and I've read them all and love them all. This is a quick, easy, enjoyable read, and I can't wait for the next one!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun book to read.
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Kiss your hand three times and post this at three others book and check under your pillow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wishin' and Hopin' was a delight. Being Italian, teaching in a Catholic School for seven years and knowing fifth grade students certainly increased my enjoyment of this book however it is not a pre-requisite. The scenes in the Catholic Schools were very realistic as well as the dialogue among the fifth grade children . I laughed out loud when the nuns wimple fell off because when I was young I remember my first glimpse at finding the nun I was so afraid of had a bald head. The scene with the Christmas play was also riotous. A nice light read o a dreary winter afternoon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After long and stressful days, a great read to relax and enjoy. Kept me smiling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy and fun read for the Holidays! Loved it!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and enjoyed two of Wally Lamb's books in the past. While this book was a little different from his normal content, it was a wonderful, amusing, light-hearted read. Even though the book was set in 1964, I couldn't help but see similarities between my own childhood and classmates in the 1980's... Didn't we all have a Rosalie and a Lonnie in our class? I also saw similarities with my son's current 5th grade class. Several times throughout the book I laughed out loud! If you are looking for a light, humorous read, I would definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wil make you smile
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