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I'll Take You There

Cover of I'll Take You There

I'll Take You There

A Novel

New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life—Felix Funicello, introduced in Wishin' and Hopin'—and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it, in this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women.

I'll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he's confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood's silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema's big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There's his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life—Felix Funicello, introduced in Wishin' and Hopin'—and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it, in this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women.

I'll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he's confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood's silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema's big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There's his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

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About 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.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 19, 2016
    Not long after film scholar Felix Funicello turns 60, a very strange thing starts happening. At the empty theater in New York City where he normally shows classic movies to his film group, two ghosts show up instead, with reels of their own. The “movies” they show Felix are of his own childhood, which he not only watches but also literally reenters, experiencing a kind of dual awareness of the present and his memories of the past, primarily the fights between his two older sisters. The ghosts in charge are women who were silent film–era heroines, including Lois Weber, an actress and eventual powerhouse director. While it’s clear that Lamb (We Are Water) intended this framework as a kind of celebration or heralding of unsung women, the setup feels not like illuminating magical realism but simply like far too much of a stretch. When he’s not hanging out with ghosts, Felix is the encouraging father of Aliza, his adult daughter trying to make a name for herself as a journalist in present-day New York City. With both humans and the supernatural, Felix’s relationships feel forced, awkward, and unlikely, in no small part because of his trite, preachy wisdom: “Bad things can happen to good people. Bad people do sometimes thrive and get away with terrible transgressions.” However, nearly 200 pages in, Felix watches the “movie” of the story of his sister Frances, who was adopted in the early 1950s, a few years before Felix was born. Frances’s birth mother, Verna, was 17 years old and married to a man in the Merchant Marines who was oversees when she became pregnant by Felix’s uncle. After giving birth to Frances, alone and prematurely in a hotel bathroom, she died. Verna’s story makes up the bitter, believable, and well-told last third of the book, raising the question why Lamb didn’t chuck the ghost and movie shtick, along with Felix’s corny narration, to simply write about three generations of the Funicello family.

  • AudioFile Magazine This glowing fictional tribute to the evolution of American feminism is deftly aided by narrator George Guidall. A midlife crisis for film scholar Felix means it's time to take a look at the turning points of his life. He's guided by former trailblazing film director Lois Weber and a magical movie screen as he reviews the influential women in his past. Guidall's talented portrayals of complicated and dramatic characters provide listeners with an entertaining guide to feminism in this fascinating fantasy. Guidall shines in his portrayals of a wide range of women as the seemingly random events of Felix's life coalesce into a heartfelt observation of the struggles and triumphs of the women who mean so much to him. R.O. � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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