Wait Till Next Year is 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. The corner stores were the scenes of fierce and affectionate rivalries. The narrative begins in 1949 at the dawn of a glorious era in baseball. An era that saw one of the three New York teams competing in the World Series every year. An era when the lineups on most teams remained basically intact year after year, allowing fans to extend loyalty and love to their chosen teams. Knowing that for the most part, their favorite players would return the following year, exhibiting their familiar strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and habits. Never would there be a better time to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan. But in 1957 it all came to an abrupt end when the Dodgers (and the Giants) were forcibly uprooted from New York and transplanted to California. Shortly after the Dodgers left, Kearns' mother dies, and the family moved from the old neighborhood to an apartment on the other side of town. This move coincided with the move of several other families on the block and with the decline of the corner store as the supermarket began to take over. It was the end of an era and the beginning of another era--and for Kearns, the end of childhood.
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.
Reviewed by: Sandy
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.
The stories brought back memories of my childhood - the disappointments as well as victories.
But most of all, it's the story of her family in a changing America. You get a mix of Jackie Robinson and her feelings about what was going on in Little Rock, Arkansas as it desegregated ... you get her observations about McCarthyism ... you have her insights in just a few paragraphs about the changing economic fortunes of the small storekeepers in her neighborhood, etc. It's not a great book, but it is a good book, and quite moving at times, especially as she relates the stories of her mother and father, who was the Chief Banking Examiner for the state of NY. And I enjoyed the ending as she becomes a Red Sox fan and passes on her love of baseball to her three sons.
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).