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Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story Hardcover – November 10, 2009

704 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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.” (Washington Post)

“Lamb’s rich panoply of details...render this novel first-rate escapism just begging for a comforter and a cup of tea.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Warmly, sweetly retro” (Kansas City Star)

“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” (St. Petersburg Times)

“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.” (Miami Herald)

“Lamb...proves he can be short, sweet and funny” (USA Today)

“Wishin’ and Hopin’ from Wally Lamb reminds us of what innocence was like.” (Body and Soul)

“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.” (Hartford Books Examiner)

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” (BookPage)

“Lamb is a very good writer, and Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a charming read with a genuinely funny ending.” (Houston Chronicle)

“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.” (Columbus Dispatch)

“Charming…. Full of pop-culture references of the day…this will have broad appeal.” (Library Journal)

From the Back Cover

With his latest story, WISHIN′ AND HOPIN′, Wally Lamb takes a turn toward the lighthearted and laugh-provoking. In a vein similar to Jean Shepherd′s A Christmas Story and David Sedaris′s The Santaland Diaries, Lamb′s holiday tale focuses on a feisty parochial school fifth grader named Felix Funicello--a distant cousin of the iconic Annette! Both poignant and hilarious, WISHIN′ AND HOPIN′ transports us back to October, November, and December of 1964, when LBJ and Lady Bird were in the White House, Meet the Beatles was on everyone′s turntables, and Christmas meant mistletoe, mangers, and midnight mass. Then it propels us from the past to the present so that we might measure what we′ve gained and what we′ve lost.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006194100X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061941009
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (704 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wally Lamb's first two novels, She's Come Undone (Simon & Schuster/Pocket, 1992) and I Know This Much Is True (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 1998), were # 1 New York Times bestsellers, New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and featured titles of Oprah's Book Club. I Know This Much Is True was a Book of the Month Club main selection and the June 1999 featured selection of the Bertelsman Book Club, the national book club of Germany. Between them, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True have been translated into eighteen languages. Lamb is also the editor of the nonfiction anthologies Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 2003) and I'll Fly Away (HarperCollins, 2007), collections of autobiographical essays which evolved from a writing workshop Lamb facilitates at Connecticut's York Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison for women. He has served as a Connecticut Department of Corrections volunteer from 1999 to the present. 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. Wally Lamb has said of his fiction, "Although my characters' lives don't much resemble my own, what we share is that we are imperfect people seeking to become better people. I write fiction so that I can move beyond the boundaries and limitations of my own experiences and better understand the lives of others. That's also why I teach. As challenging as it sometimes is to balance the two vocations, writing and teaching are, for me, intertwined." Honors for Wally Lamb include: the Connecticut Center for the Book's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the Connecticut Governor's Arts Award, The National Institute of Business/Apple Computers "Thanks to Teachers" Award. Lamb has received Distinguished Alumni awards from Vermont College and the University of Connecticut. He was the 1999 recipient of the New England Book Award for fiction. I Know This Much Is True won the Friends of the Library USA Readers' Choice Award for best novel of 1998, the result of a national poll, and the Kenneth Johnson Memorial Book Award, which honored the novel's contribution to the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. She's Come Undone was a 1992 "Top Ten" Book of the Year selection in People magazine and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best First Novel of 1992. Wally Lamb's third novel, The Hour I First Believed, explores chaos theory by interfacing several generations of a fictional Connecticut family with such nonfictional American events as the Civil War, the Columbine High School shootings of 1999, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina. The book will be published by HarperCollins in November of 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Bill Petillo on November 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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!
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82 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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158 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Carolee Kaufold on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michelle on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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