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The Wishbones Hardcover – May 5, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tom Perrotta's first novel, The Wishbones, is all about that much-maligned class of 30-ish men who still live at home with their parents, guys who make furtive love to their girlfriends--if they have them at all--in the basement rec room or the back seat of a car. But Dave Raymond, the protagonist of The Wishbones, doesn't waste his time on Star Trek reruns or computer games; he spends his weekends playing in a wedding band called The Wishbones, using the rapidly receding dream of rock stardom as an excuse to put off growing up. The sudden death of a fellow musician sends Dave into something of a tailspin, however, and in a moment of weakness, he proposes to his longtime girlfriend, Julie. The engagement has hardly been announced when Dave meets Gretchen, a bridesmaid at one of the weddings at which The Wishbones play, and before long he's having serious doubts about his own marital plans.

Everybody knows someone like Dave, but a real-life puer aeternus is rarely as entertaining as Perrotta's fictional one. Perrotta wisely surrounds his sad-sack protagonist with an array of entertaining supporting characters, from a joint-smoking priest to one of Dave's band-mates whose life work is a musical based on Kennedy's assassination. By the time The Wishbones winds down to its well-deserved end, readers will be wishing for a second novel from Tom Perrotta soon.

From Library Journal

Dave works as a courier during the week, but his real passion is playing guitar on weekends with a pretty good New Jersey wedding band. They play in places that sport "the unmistakable odor of mediocrity." Their repertoire includes "a ten-minute medley [of] 'I Will Survive,' 'Boogie-Oogie-Oogie'...capped by a full-length version of 'Y.M.C.A.,' a song that had returned with a vengeance from the land of musical oblivion." For 15 years, Dave has drifted through an on-and-off relationship with the same girl, Julie. Then one night he witnesses the on-stage death of an older lead singer with another band. Shaken, he returns home and without blinking says to Julie, "Let's get married." Then panic sets in. He gets involved with a sexy bohemian poet even as Julie begs him to give up the band, something he had never even remotely considered. At times hilariously funny, at others times wonderfully lyrical, and filled with subtle as well as obvious pleasures, this is an awfully good novel about a young man's reluctance to grow up. Perrotta has published a book of short stories, Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies (LJ 4/15/94). Highly recommended.?David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (May 5, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399142673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399142673
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Perrotta has a knack for portraying extremely credible, sympathetic, seemingly familiar characters.
Michael K. McKeon
He has his own pre-wedding anxieties, as he finally proposes to his high school sweetheart, and then worries that he will settle into a bland suburban life sans music.
M. Allen Greenbaum
The shift in tense for the last section of the book is an odd choice and has a disjointing although not necessarily distracting effect on the novel's ending.
RCM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By pearl rogers on August 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because one of the blurbs said you would laugh out loud while reading it and I did -- several times. Perrotta captures that suburban aimless angst and his writing is funny and charming. I've recommended this book to everyone I know and no one has been disappointed.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an enormously likeable book about love, music, and, especially, the choices required by time, money, and cultural expectations. Despite these "heavy" undertones, this is light reading at its best, full of distinct, interesting characters, humorous unexpected developments, and a brisk pace.
The story involves Dave Raymond, the 31-year old lead guitarist for "The Wishbones," a wedding band in which Dave feels both stuck and exhilarated. He has his own pre-wedding anxieties, as he finally proposes to his high school sweetheart, and then worries that he will settle into a bland suburban life sans music. At a gig, he meets Gretchen (nom de plume: Marlene Fragment!), an aspiring bohemian poet, who seems Dave's last chance at prolonging and preventing some touch choices.
Perrota is great at irony, and he almost overplays this, but the book moves so quickly that one doesn't mind. Although some of the book covers familiar "rites of passage" decisions, there's some outrageous (and I've heard, fairly realistic) wedding scenes, an unexpectedly tense gig with an unusual audience, and the musical aspirations of the singer (think "Springtime for Hitler," but in somewhat better taste. I liked the comparable "High Fidelity" more; it better captures the depth of rock and roll obsession, but this is close--An appealingly light look at marriage, weddings, and some awful 70's music. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on October 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are some quick reads that enable you to overlook their flaws because you can pretty much fly through them. Then, sometimes, although this is rare, there is that fabulous quick read. The one that is funny, with great characters and an engaging story, that doesn't make you feel empty after you have finished it. The Wishbones falls in the latter category. I loved this book. It's about so many things I love to read about: music, relationships, New Jersey, fear of growing up, friends. Tom Perrotta has given us a highly enjoyable story about Dave, a thiryone year old guitar player in a wedding band (he's got a day job, but it's nothing much). Something happens to him one day which has him proposing to his longterm (15 years, on and off) girlfriend. Then panic sets in. Dave has never really grown up and the fear of marriage makes him do somethings he'll probably regret sooner or later (I have to admit, I was a little annoyed with him at times). But the pieces of his life fall together and by the end of the novel, he realizes what is really important to him. This is a satisfying and enjoyable read. Have fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on July 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though not as good as subsequent novels "Little Children" and "Election," Tom Perrotta's first, "The Wishbones," already laid the groundwork as to why he has so many admirers: quirky characters in uncomfortable scenarios narrated in a snappy way. Here, the protaganist (Dave Raymond) is what one might consider a bit of a loser -- at age 31, he still lives with his parents, and although obviously intelligent, hasn't done much with his life. He messengers during the day, plays guitar at night for a wedding band known as "The Wishbones," and hangs out when he can with his on- again-off-again girlfriend of 15 years, Julie. The monkey wrench is thrown, however, when he finally (but still impulsively) proposes to Julie who accepts, and immediately meets Gretchen at a wedding, who's dramatically different than Julie, and whom he thinks he's fallen in love with. What to do?

An interesting story that kept my attention. Two things, though, stretched my belief. First, if Julie is so wonderful and beautiful, there's no way she's staying with someone like Dave for 15 years. Second, there was a scene in which The Wishbones mistakenly find themselves as a houseband for neo-nazis. I think Perrotta was trying too hard here and not staying true to the anally meticulous character "Artie," the manager and sax player of the band, who would never have contracted to be anybody's house band without doing a little research on who the band would be playing for.

In any event, Perrotta is one of the most fun authors around to read, and I'm one who can be included as a fan, even though I think he has yet to write that elusive five star novel (at least the way I rate things).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Lore on November 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you've seen the movie The Wedding Singer, you're already familiar with the idiom of Tom Perrotta's The Wishbones. This is the story of Dave, a musician in a wedding band in the New Jersey of the 1980's, and how his life changes as he approaches his own wedding to Julie. He has been dating Julie for fifteen years "on and off", and once he's proposed his problem becomes not so much unrequited love as love too much requited. Though Dave is seen by his band-mates as rock steady and by himself as an all-around nice guy, the approaching wedding looms ahead like the end of his freedom and challenges him to make some unusual choices in his last summer as a single man.
Aside from Dave, the other characters in the band each have their own story arc, well-painted by Tom Perrotta. Though I didn't find The Wishbones as funny as Perrotta's later novel Joe College, there was something poignant and almost naïve about it that was missing in the other work. A definite must-read for those who came of age in the 80's.
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