Wally Lamb’s sixth novel, “I’ll Take You There,” launches with a premise so blatantly contrived you simply need to go together with it: The ghost of silent-period Hollywood director Lois Weber seems to movie scholar Felix Funicello in a classic theater to point out him the film of his life. It’s “preserved on movie,” she explains. (One way or the other you knew it will not be digital.) “And these movies include a particular function. … You’ll have the power to re-enter your previous, not simply view it on the display.”
Earlier than you possibly can say “rerun,” Felix is watching after which re-getting into his childhood, helpfully titled “The Lifetime of Felix Funicello: July-August 1959.” He’s 6, and large sisters Simone and Frances are taking him to the films. En route, the sisters are thrilled to see that certainly one of this yr’s finalists for the Rheingold beer magnificence contest is native woman Shirley Shishmanian, her ethnic identify now modified to Dulcet Tone. Frances instantly makes it her enterprise to get Shirley/Dulcet elected, dragging Felix alongside to canvass door to door of their Connecticut residence city. In any case, what larger honor might a younger lady within the Nineteen Fifties aspire to than to win “some silly, sexist New York magnificence contest”?
That disparaging description comes within the novel’s current-day setting from Felix’s daughter, Aliza. She’s a employees author at New York journal, and she or he is none too thrilled to have the historical past of Miss Rheingold as her first huge function task. Her father, who appeared fairly nostalgic concerning the world of his youth when he chronicled it in Lamb’s 2009 novella “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” has since acquired a more durable-edged view. Invited by Lois Weber to relate his life-movie “as in case you’re explaining the sights as they have been again then to a younger lady dwelling in at this time’s world,” Felix makes positive to inform us that abortions and the Capsule have been unlawful, and the remainder of his narrative says little good about ladies’s choices “again then.”
We study much more about Felix’s sisters, the Miss Rheingold contest (courtesy of Aliza’s New York journal article, printed in full) and the battle between third- and second-wave feminists (courtesy of a weblog submit by Aliza). Amazingly, from this mishmash of supplies (together with a good dose of liberal platitudes), Lamb manages to spin a household yarn compelling sufficient so that you could be not discover that the life-on-movie conceit drops away about one hundred pages in need of the top, after Ingrid Bergman’s out-of-the-blue look to offer a canned historical past of the yr 1965.
Lamb retains occasions whizzing by so quick that there’s not time to cease and assume, “Wait — what?” Extra to the purpose, his affection for these characters is so palpable, his intentions so palpably good, that it’s exhausting to not be touched by this candy-natured novel.
Wendy Smith reviewed this ebook for The Washington Publish.