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The Wonder Spot Paperback – May 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

Six years after her amazingly successful debut, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank rewards her fans for their patience with The Wonder Spot, a refreshingly honest interpretation of one young woman's journey into adulthood. As we follow heroine Sophie Applebaum through a comfortable, yet awkward childhood in suburban Pennsylvania to the challenges of finding love and a career in midtown Manhattan, The Wonder Spot is never guilty of the self-indulgent traps set by other members of the Chick Lit genre Bank helped launch.

We first meet the Applebaum clan on their way to cousin Rebecca's bat mitzvah in Chappaqua, New York, where Sophie ends up sneaking cigarettes in the woods with a handsome eighth grader one year her senior. Yet even this minor rebellion is more charming than anything else; as with most of her future transgressions, Sophie is less the instigator than the innocent witness. Defining moments in Sophie's life are revealed through her relationships: an almost mythical college roommate named Venice; her charismatic yet capricious older brother; her brilliant younger brother; her unpenetrable father; and her hilarious grandmother, who takes it upon herself to save her "Sophila" from "impending spinsterhood." Of course no real journey into young womanhood is complete without a series of committment phobic, potentially deliquent, overly nice men whose appearances seem less about love than about demonstrating our heroine's inability to ever truly be comfortable with herself. As Sophie observes during a seventh grade skating party, "I felt sure that everyone was looking at me and then realized that no one was, and i experienced the distinct shame of each."

Undeniably clever, occasionally hilarious, and often poignant, The Wonder Spot is captivating enough for readers to forgive Sophie's indecisive, self-destructive tendancies and simply bask in her sincerity. --Gisele Toueg

Wonder Woman: An Interview with Melissa Bank

Melissa Bank's bestselling 1999 debut, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, took readers by storm and heralded the wave of Chick Lit to follow in its wake. Bank is back with her new book, The Wonder Spot, a series of interconnected stories chronicling the bittersweet misadventures of middle-child Sophie Applebaum, from adolescence to adulthood. senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons exchanged e-mail with Bank to talk about writer's block, Curtis Sittenfeld's very public take-down in the Sunday Times, and the dreaded "c" word--Chick Lit.

Read our interview with Melissa Bank

Wonder Woman: An Interview with Melissa Bank
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of the megasuccessful Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, rejoice. Bank is back with an equally entertaining first novel, starring Sophie Applebaum, a sarcastic, self-deprecating middle child from a suburban Jewish family who moves from a fish-out-of-water adolescence to a how-did-I-get-here adulthood. Likable Sophie's (mis)adventures in life and love include an attempt to use lyrics from Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" to argue against the necessity of attending Hebrew school and a penchant for imagining her future life with men she barely knows (a potential beau's ability to cook fish becomes "a metaphor for the hard things we will face together"). A slightly cynical yet romantic optimism grounds Sophie—and gives Bank plenty of opportunities for clever quips: cribbing a career objective in publishing from a résumé handbook, Sophie diligently copies exercises found in the long-overdue library book 20th Century Typing, including "Know Your Typewriter," and she agrees to a blind date with a pediatric surgeon by noting that she possesses her own "pediatric heart." But this isn't just another urban chick-lit bildungsroman; Bank's work also features the intriguing transformations of the other Applebaums: a grandmother's slip into senility, Sophie's mother's dip into infidelity, a brother's turn toward Orthodox Judaism. Through it all, Sophie never quite escapes the sense of being a "solid trying to do a liquid's job," a feeling as frightening as it is familiar to those struggling to achieve a grownup self-awareness. Engrossing, engaging—it's a wonderful return for Bank. 12-city author tour. Agent, Molly Friedrich. (June 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037217
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By reader on June 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Bank has repeated her successful formula from "The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing" with stories of a female protagonist moving from teen years to adulthood. Let me first say that she is one of the freshest voices writing today. What is so disappointing about "The Wonder Spot" though is that the characters are so similar, they even hold the same jobs depicted in Girls Guide- editorial assistant, advertising; the family dynamics are the same, the setting is the same (Philly suburbs and NYC) but the magic Bank wove in Girls Guide with her succinct, brilliant sentences that one paused to read over and over have vanished to be replaced by longer less significant sentences (perhaps to go along with a longer book?)The magic is not there this time. While I read the Wonder Spot straight through in one reading, it doesn't have the same power, longing, sense of loss and realization that Girls Guide did. If you have not read anything by Bank, treat yourself to Girls Guide rather than this work, or you will wonder what all the fuss was about. How disapppointing that in the 5+ years that have elapsed since Bank wrote her first work, she was unable to do more with her second work than repeat formula and somehow, not make it work this time. This book depressed me. Girls Guide left one feeling the full strength of possibility.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By headbutler on July 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is not a book that belongs in the dreadful genre known as "chick lit." And what a relief that is! Sophie Applebaum never mentions "Manolo" or "Jimmy Choo" --- her roommate practically has to torture her to buy the used evening dress that might give her exquisite power over men. "I looked at myself for a long time," Bank writes of Sophie trying that dress on, "and I remember it as one of the only times in my life when I saw myself as beautiful." Is there one of us --- man or woman --- who can't relate?

She wears that dress three times. The last time, she meets an ex-boyfriend. She was glad she was wearing the dress; it put extra emotion in his voice when he asked if she remembered him. She had been waiting for this moment: "I'd pictured turning my back to him or slapping his face or pretending that I couldn't quite place him." And then, this killer line: "I'd had so many lovers since him, my first, and all of them so much more memorable." And then, the real killer line, the truth: "But when our eyes met and his look asked if I remembered him, my look answered that it did."

May I simply say: "Wow."

Out of college, and into the struggling years. A job happens, and an office, and the inevitable problems of people getting shoved into roles. But it gets better with the boyfriend --- could Sophie be Getting Somewhere?

New story. Shift. Her brother has the Girlfriend from Hell, and doesn't see it. New story. Shift. Her father dies, and she's living, with her mother, at home. There's a weekend in the country with her oldest friend and Matthew, her friend's friend, and a set of complications that give Sophie hope and end a friendship. New story. Shift. There's Bobby Guest, cloudy and lost, and, ultimately, not really available --- we've all had our Bobbys.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JF on July 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am so surprised by some of the negative reviews. This book is certainly not meant to uncover any great mysteries or make a grand pronouncement about the meaning of life. I loved this book for its humor and reality.

Ms. Bank completely captured what it's like to be a somewhat insecure woman, and how those feelings of insecurity change as you get older. Sophie is so much like myself and people I know, and such a funny and true voice. I think women from the East Coast (particularly Jewish) will especially appreciate Sophie and her sense of humor. Any fans of "Girls Guide", or Susan Isaacs and Elaine Kagan, are sure to love this book. I wish I hadn't read it so fast because I already miss Sophie. I hope Ms. Bank's next book comes sooner than 6 years from now.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Floor Pie on January 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I simply loved this book. I can see why it might not have a very broad appeal, as it is firmly rooted in a particular culture and a particular deconstruction of that culture. So, it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

It's a book about feelings more than action, relationships and exquisitely drawn characters more than high drama. It's warm and real and honest. Bank can take a seemingly mundane topic, like a Bat Mitvah or a micro-managing boss, and find a wealth of subtle drama, hypocrisy, and humor there. Her character observations are spot on, her descriptions are captivating, and her narrator's poetic sarcasm is infectious.

It is very similar to The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but this book made a deeper impression on me for some reason. Perhaps the subject matter was relateable for me personally. Or perhaps Sophie's character is infused with a touch more vulnerability. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it immensely and reccomend it highly.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By cody in ithaca on April 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Melissa Bank's second book-a novel, a book of linked stories-may disappoint some fans of A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but as a writer she has gone far deeper in her new book, The Wonder Spot. The wit is still there, the graceful prose, the deep empathy one feels for the main character, Sophie Applebaum. But in The Wonder Spot Bank shows new depths and nuances and shadows. She doesn't hide from sadness or loneliness or failure with her lightning wit-and her canvas in The Wonder Spot is broader. She deals with death and religion; with issues of class and money; with even deeper themes of identity and appearance in conflict with character and integrity that is nearly Jamesian. She is strong and smart and funny, but she is also no longer afraid to be vulnerable. Second books-especially after huge first successes-are tough, but Melissa Bank has far exceeded even our most generous expectations. She has written an important and brilliant new book.
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