Wait Till Next Yearis the story of a young girl growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, when owning a single-family home on a tree-lined street meant the realization of dreams, when everyone knew everyone else on the block, and the children gathered in the streets to play from sunup to sundown. The neighborhood was equally divided among Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans, and the corner stores were the scenes of fierce and affectionate rivalries. We meet the people who influenced Goodwin's early life: her father, who emerged from a traumatic childhood without a trace of self-pity or rancor and who taught his daughter early on that she should say whatever she thought and should bring her voice into any conversation at any time; her mother, whose heart problems left her with the arteries of a seventy-year-old when she was only in her thirties and whose love of books allowed her to break the boundaries of the narrow world to which she was confined by her chronic illness; her two older sisters; her friends on the block; the local storekeepers; her school friends and teachers. This is also the story of a girlhood in which the great religious festivals of the Catholic church and the seasonal imperatives of baseball combined to produce a passionate love of history, ceremony, and ritual. It is the story of growing up in what seemed on the surface a more innocent era until one recalls the terror of polio, the paranoia of McCarthyism reflected even in the children's games, the obsession with A-bomb drills in school, and the ugly face of racial prejudice. It was a time whose relative tranquillity contained the seeds of the turbulent decade of the sixties.
It is, however, a bit of a paean to that era, leaning heavily on the nostalgia button. It would be wrong to say that it was viewing things through rose-colored lenses but there's no question where the emphasis lay: communities were closer; the neighborhoods were safe; the economy was doing well; free agency hadn't ruined the concept of team loyalty.
If you're looking for something deep and incisive like Team of Rivals, this isn't the right place. If I had to choose a single word, I think it would be: pleasant.
Wow! What a book! Goodwin writes of her childhood through the prism of a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Growing up in Rockville Centre, one cheered for the Dodgers, or the Yankees, or the Giants. When the Giants & the Dodgers battled for the pennant, or the Dodgers battled the Yankees in the World Series, you cheered for your team, but you kept your friends who were rooting for the other team.
Goodwin learned at age six how to keep score. She keeps score in this book, the score of her love of baseball, of growing up in '50s suburbia, of a childhood touched by the public traumas of McCarthyism, the Rosenberg trial, the Korean War, and the private trauma of her mother's illness. Every year is marked by the Dodgers' winning, or (more often) losing. Their games are the landmarks by which she marks her youth.
The things she loved: baseball, her family, her friends, her neighborhood, and reading. When she first learns to read, "I insisted on reading every sign and billboard along the way. 'Why are you doing this?' Elaine asked. 'Oh, you'll understand someday,' I replied. 'Once you start reading, you can never stop' " How true.
Goodwin is a marvelous writer. It may be that, because she is only six years my senior, I related to much of her experience. It may be that because the cry of "Wait Till Next Year" is heard in Chicago (and, boy, did Cubs fans have their heartbreak last year!), it resonates with me. But I don't think those things really account for how much I loved this book. I think what accounts for it is Goodwin's extraordinary ability to recreate in words what was really quite an ordinary childhood, and make it magical.
Set in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, Wait Till Next Year re-creates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans.
I am now interested in reading more of her work, as I have always been interested in history. One of her books has won a Pulitzer Prize (No Ordinary Time, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II).
The stories brought back memories of my childhood - the disappointments as well as victories.
Reviewed by: Sandy