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The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing Paperback – May 1, 2000
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This is one of those rare occasions when a highly touted book fulfills the excitement and the major money (in this case, $275,000) surrounding its acquisition. Reading her debut collection of seven tightly interlinked stories featuring (with one exception) heroine Jane Rosenal, one marvels at Bank's assured control of her material, her witty, distinctive voice and her ability to find comedy, pathos and drama in ordinary lives without resorting to the twin crutches of dysfunctional families and sexual abuse that seem to prop up much current fiction. Jane is notable above all for her smart, irreverent sense of humor, evidenced in a typical teenager's mocking attitude when we first meet her at age 14, and irrepressibly sardonic and self-deprecating as she gets older, enters and leaves relationships and progressively doubts her ability to inspire or recognize romantic love. From girlhood, Jane is bewildered by the nuances of adult behavior, which seems like a secret code evident to everyone but her: "I should know this already" is her recurrent lament. She looks for insights everywhere: in her fickle brother's succession of girlfriends, in her parents' affectionate (but, as it turns out, secretive) marital bond, in the attractions between other couples. From her childhood in a Philadelphia suburb and the Jersey shore to her adult life in Manhattan (with visits to St. Croix and upstate New York), she is always testing the limits of her understanding and tending to doubt her perceptions. Though Jane is quick with a quip, she's sensitive and vulnerable, and when she finds herself falling for a handsome editor 28 years her senior, she knows she is out of her depth. Eventually, we follow Jane through several failed love affairs; career crises in publishing (a chapter about a viperish female editor is a gem) and advertising; the wrenching deaths of loved ones; and increasing fears that she'll never learn to play the mating game. By the time readers reach the final, title story, they'll be so firmly attached to self-doubting Jane that they'll track her misguided seduction of Mr. Right with drawn breath. "Beautiful and funny and sad and true" (to quote Jane), this book is also phenomenally good. Agent, Molly Friedrich at Aaron Priest. First serial to Cosmopolitan and Zoetrope; BOMC and QPB alternates; Penguin audio; author tour; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Holland, Norway and Denmark. (June) FYI: Bank is writing the screenplay of this book for Francis Ford Coppola and Zoetrope studios.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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."