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The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing Paperback – May 1, 2000
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Jane Rosenal, the narrator of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is wise beyond her years. Not that that's saying much--since none of her elders, with the exception of her father, is particularly wise. At the age of 14, Jane watches her brother and his new girlfriend, searching for clues for how to fall in love, but by the end of the summer she's trying to figure out how not to fail in love. At twice that age, Jane quickly internalizes How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right, even though that retro manual is ruining her chances at happiness. In the intervening years, Melissa Bank's heroine struggles at love and work. The former often seems indistinguishable from the latter, and her experiences in book publishing inspire little in the way of affection. As Jane announces in "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine": "I'd been a rising star at H----- until Mimi Howlett, the new executive editor, decided I was just the lights of an airplane."
Bank's first collection has a beautiful, true arc, and all the sophistication and control her heroine could ever desire. In "The Floating House," Jane and her boyfriend, Jamie, visit his ex-girlfriend in St. Croix, and right from the start she can't stop mimicking her beautiful competitor, in a notably idiotic fashion. "I'm like one of those animals that imitates its predators to survive," she realizes--one of several thousand of Bank's ruefully funny phrases. But even as Jane clowns around, desperately trying to keep up appearances, she is so hyperaware it hurts. Again and again, the author explores the dichotomy between life as it happens and the rehearsed anecdote, the preferred outcome. In The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, even suburban quiet has "nothing to do with peace." Bank's much-anticipated debut merits all its buzz and, more to the point, transcends it. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Banks's debut short story collection about the mixed-up dating life of Jane Rosenal was a hit on the beach-reading circuit this summer. Hearing the author's conviction while she reads her work proves why: there is an uncanny likeness between the writer and her feisty-but-neurotic heroine. Banks plays up this mood by narrating in a quiet, seductive voiceAone that nonetheless manages to convey a sense of sustained desperation. The episodes move chronologically, starting with Jane's girl's-eye view of her older brother, Henry, in bumbling action as he dates an older, more sophisticated woman. At age 16, Jane moves in with a great-aunt in her Manhattan apartment, then sees the world through her host's jaded eyes. Later, as a lowly assistant in publishing, she is seduced by an older editor, a super-macho alcoholic who suffers impotence. Banks's gifts of distanced objectivityAas author and readerAdovetail here with stylish panache. Based on the 1999 Viking hardcover. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
The second-person-voiced chapter on overcoming breast cancer was over my head as a teenager, never having experienced any health problems of my own. I was mostly struck by the unusual shift in narration. Someone who has been through an experience like that will find it incredibly meaningful - and familiar. "Too late, you realize that your body was perfect - every healthy body is."
"The Girls' Guide . . ." is essentially a collection of character sketches rather than a cohesive novel. There's nothing wrong with that per se, however, after reading each vignette (with the exception of the last), I found myself wondering what the author's point was. I never identified with Jane, the protagonist, and found her laugh-out-loud funny only once (although she often reminds us just how funny she thinks she is).
The book also has a seemingly unrelated short story narrated not by Jane, but by an older woman named Nina. I still have no idea what that was about! If I hadn't read other readers' reviews that mentioned it, I almost would have thought there was a glitch when my book was published and another author's chapter got in there by accident.
Given all that, besides "disappointing," if I had to sum up this book in one word, I would have to say, "weird."
October 7, 2004
THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING is not a novel. It's a series of stories (some that had been published previously) centering on Jane Rosenal, starting from the age of fourteen through middle age. Each story reveals something different about her, puts her in different situations, and in nearly every single story, it is told with a lot of wit and sassy humor. I found myself chuckling through some of the earlier stories, and found myself empathizing with her in another story (about her father dying from cancer).
I don't know of any other way to describe this "novel". It isn't a novel and so there was no climax or high point at the end of the last chapter. However, I did feel a sense of "ending" with that last story, feeling that maybe Jane had finally found someone that she may love for the rest of her life, or maybe as she said "We are just two mayflies mating on a summer night". Very profound.
My overall feeling about this "book" is that I loved it, mainly because it is not what I had expected. With a title such as THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING, I expected a tale centering on a teenage girl living in Wisconsin, for instance. What I did not expect was a coming-of-age series of short stories, chronicling the life of one woman from New England, along with her desires, thoughts, and opinions. I found it unique and it kept my attention throughout the entire book.
The middle story, which many readers have questioned, bothers me as well. But, from what I feel after reading this book, it was just a "lull", a transition story, in which Jane had moved into her deceased aunt's apartment, and it signified a big change in her life (her starting her relationship with her aunt's friend Archie). It was a rather weird blip in this series of stories, and that is only my guess as to why it appeared in the book. Other than that, I have no real complaints about THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING. With that said, I don't think this is a book that any reader can enjoy. One needs to be in a certain frame of mind, and come to the book not expecting anything in particular, or you may be disappointed.