I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb

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Sixty-something Felix Funicello, cousin of the famous Annette Funicello, screens movies for the Monday night movie club which meets at the old Garde Theater in New London. He enjoys this group more than the college kids he teaches, before whom he can use film, celluloid, the real deal which come on old film reels contained in metal canisters. (How well I remember my early teaching days, when my team member and I would order movies for the upcoming week, thread them on the projector, listen to the repeating “thwap…” when the film ended and struck the empty reel before we could turn the projector off.)

Film is an appropriate medium for this narrator, a man who nostalgically visits his past whether it’s via an apparition or some hallucinatory trip. He reviews the film of his life by going back in time to 1959 when he is six, seeing Pinocchio for the first time with his two sisters, and then when he is twelve. The year is 1965, and the film shows scenes including rice paddies in Vietnam, Malcom X’s widow, Gale Sayers’ touchdown for the Bears, and clips from The Sound of Music.

These vignettes sharply mirror my own life, creating a piercing nostalgia and a recollection of times in my life which parallel those of Felix, a fictional character, until we come to the intimacies of his family, which of course are particular to him alone. (“All unhappy families are alike each in their own way,” as Tolstoy reminds us.)

I’ll Take You There  reminds us of life in the forties, fifties, and sixties; of families then, and of being a woman where your value depended on being beautiful and married, but certainly not pregnant and unwed.

In stark contrast to life in decades past is the one which women live today, inhabiting “a world dramatically changed by technology, globalization, and gender politics…” Women are far more empowered today with Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs in which to assert their feminism.

And yet, do we want anything far different than what our mothers wanted? Felix’s daughter writes in her blog, Invincible Grrrl, that we “rally around nonviolent problem solving, and we join forces against the immoral abuse of power.”

I am not a feminist; I am not a loud voice claiming what ought to be my rights as I don’t see them as anything less, or more, than anyone else’s. In fact, brazen women tend to annoy me, just as brazen men do. I prefer to stand by a person’s character rather than their sex, so for that, this book’s theme of feminine ideals didn’t intrigue me as perhaps was intended.

Instead, I was captivated by the look backward through time, eras that I well remember living through at my mother’s side. It is those memories, portrayed by Wally Lamb so vividly, that intrigued me as a reader.

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14 thoughts on “I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb”

  1. I read a Christmas book, Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb about Felix Funicello. I remember it as being sweet and a nice Christmas book. Sounds like the same character, but grown up.

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    1. I have not read that book, nor any other by Wally Lamb which included Felix Funicello. But, he’s an endearing fellow, and I can see what a skillfully created character he must be, especially to make a reappearance. This time he is the father of a college student.

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    1. I was half expecting an enormous novel such as I Know at This Much Is True was, but this one is much shorter. Still, Lamb looks at traditional values in light of contemporary times, and causes the reader to look back at eras gone by quite successfully. But, I can’t say that one was better than another; I think we still have many issues to resolve, as a people, and as the female sex.

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  2. I thought Wally Lamb’s novel I Know This Much Is True was amazing, but other than She’s Come Undone, I’ve yet to read anything else by the author. I know he’s written some nonfiction, as well as fiction, but nothing has caught my attention until now. Excellent review, Meredith. I look forward to reading this book in 2017. My husband was born in 1952 (and I in 1961), so it will be fun to read about that time period. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

    I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving. We’re driving to Texas to visit my daughter and her boyfriend. I’m looking forward to the visit, but not the long drive!

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    1. Those are the only two I’d previously read as well, and I really liked I Know This Much Is True. I think that you would enjoy this much as I did, from quite a similar perspective as me, since we were both born in 1961. It made me so nostalgic! (Although I don’t think that was his intent; I think he wanted to say look how much has changed…for the better.)

      I hope you find the trip to Texas enjoyable in part, the drive I mean. I know you will have a good time with your lovely, successful, fashionable daughter.

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  3. I remember reading about Felix Funicello in Wishin’ and Hopin’ … I enjoyed that book, as I have enjoyed everything else Lamb has written. I’ll Take you There is already on my 2017 reading list, thanks for a wonderful review. Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. You will like it, I’m sure, JoAnn. It is a short, but well written novel. And like Les and I, you will probably find yourself visually remembering times gone by. May your memories, and Thanksgiving, be good!

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    1. I was thrilled to be offered a chance to review this one because I haven’t read his books in at least ten years. I was only just aware this one was to be released in the summer.

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  4. Bellezza,
    This book sound fascinating. I just read the opening to this book on another blog. I’ve not yet read any books by Wally Lamb. I hope to!

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  5. Sounds like a book I’d enjoy. Journey to past decades through films, what a wonderful idea for a cinephile. Thanks for sharing this, Bellezza. 🙂

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  6. Hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I have not read anything else by Wally Lamb other than She’s Come Undone which I was not blown away by… Granted that could have been I read it when it was all the rage after Oprah selected it for her book club pick. I definitely wouldn’t mind checking this out.

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