In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb--author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She's Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water --weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.Read more...
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In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb--author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She's Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water--weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-19
- Reviewer: Staff
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 filmera heroines, including Lois Weber, an actress and eventual powerhouse director. While its 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 hes 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, Felixs 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. Francess birth mother, Verna, was 17 years old and married to a man in the Merchant Marines who was oversees when she became pregnant by Felixs uncle. After giving birth to Frances, alone and prematurely in a hotel bathroom, she died. Vernas story makes up the bitter, believable, and well-told last third of the book, raising the question why Lamb didnt chuck the ghost and movie shtick, along with Felixs corny narration, to simply write about three generations of the Funicello family. (Nov.)
Into the era of silent film
Wally Lamb won readers’ hearts with his New York Times bestselling novel (and Oprah Book Club selection) She’s Come Undone. Four bestsellers later, he returns with I’ll Take You There.
The novel follows film professor Felix Funicello, a divorced father who runs a Monday-night movie club for his film students. One evening, Felix encounters the ghost of Lois Weber, an American silent film actress and director. Felix follows her on the ride of his life, revisiting scenes from his past that are projected onto a movie screen. As Lois takes him back through time, Felix realizes that he has been charged with uncovering a dark secret at the heart of his family.
Lamb’s previous work has been quite sensitive to women, painting endearing portraits of female characters who have been ignored, shamed and often mistreated. He builds on that tradition in I’ll Take You There, a love letter to feminism and to trailblazing women—real and imagined—who have graced the silver screen or stood behind the camera.