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The Wonder Spot Paperback – May 30, 2006
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"Prodigiously talented, mordantly wry and wise, Bank offers... irresistible reading." —San Francisco Chronicle
"A five-course meal: loaded with pleasure." —Los Angeles Times
"Bank possesses a prodigious talent for snappy one-liners, and her self-deprecating anecdotes belie intelligence and sophistication." —The Washington Post
"Bittersweet, tremendously winning... enthralling and engaging." —Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Melissa Bank, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, won the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction. She has published stories in the Chicago Tribune, Zoetrope, The North American Review, Other Voices, and Ascent. Her work has also been heard on "Selected Shorts" on National Public Radio. She holds an MFA from Cornell University and divides her time between New York City and East Hampton.
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Like Girl’s Guide, The Wonder Spot challenges definition. It is not exactly a novel, but not simply a collection of short stories. Each story -- and there are seven here -- could stand on its own. The stories compiled here are connected by the same narrator and often refer back to previous stories in the collection. In the first story, she is a socially awkward twelve-year-old; in the second story, she is a freshman at college. The shift in time is not jarring -- the narrator has not changed all that much and the reader trusts that nothing truly important has been left out.
In The Wonder Spot, we meet Sophie Applebaum: an insecure, directionless serial dater. We look on as she wears out her welcome with several room mates, struggles to find a career path, and tries to fashion each man she meets into a soul mate, failing at it differently each time. Like the stories from Girl’s Guide, these stories read like autobiography packaged as fiction. However, Sophie is not as charming and relatable as Jane was. Sophie is not even as interesting as the other characters in The Wonder Spot: her perpetually mysterious older brother, her beautiful college room mate with the tortured love life, her best friend from childhood who seems to know her better than Sophie knows herself (although this does not seem to be reciprocal). In fact, the real irony of Sophie Applebaum is how little self-knowledge she acquires while being so utterly self-involved.
Bank’s has the ability to tell a story and make it feel like it really happened. Her characters seem so familiar they could be people you know, they could even be you. However, the believability of these stories approaches the mundane. She relates petty arguments and office politics, conversations with men that eventually lead nowhere, anecdotes that might interest her girlfriends, but are otherwise of small significance. It seems Bank already told the stories that were truly worth telling and now she has resorted to telling the rest: the one where she almost gets in trouble during Hebrew class, the one where she almost gets fired, the one where she almost falls in love. These stories are the leftovers, the scraps. Trying to make a meal out of them proves difficult and ultimately unsatisfying.
The Wonder Spot reads like background for a more compelling story. It is so well written that the reader takes for granted that the point of the story will become evident at any moment. It seems always to be on the horizon. When one story finishes with loose ends and confusion, the following story assumes the burden. It is entertaining and believable; the characters are interesting and likable; it is peppered throughout with truly original and downright hilarious insights. The lack of plot is temporarily forgotten, nearly irrelevant. All along, the reader is sure that the end will give meaning to the preceding 300-some-odd pages. But meaning never comes.
The Wonder Spot is a quick, enjoyable read. But it is not particularly rewarding or meaningful. Readers looking for quality fiction would be better off rereading The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing -- a book that was deserving of all the hype it got.
-Katie O'Rourke, Monsoon Season
- I liked Sophie, the main character; her wit and humor were right up my alley.
- I loved the close-knit aspect that the main character shared with her brothers; it was wholesome, but not saccharine.
- The writing itself is good- this is one of the main things that sets her apart from the rest of the chic lit authors.
- This is obviously a coming of age novel, which is fine, but I just felt like it was a little lost (like the main character). It seemed as if Bank just wasn't sure when to end it and kept going... and going..
It's not, by any means, but probably more average than good. A quick read... good for the airplane or poolside.
And it is similiar to A girls guide without as much magic. But, Bank does have an amazing ability to write a character to her core, and know every aspect of her. I love that the book follows you through Sophie's life, and weaves in an out leaving questions unanswered, and leaves you with no need to have them answered. Characters come and go, and you don't get filled in on important pieces of her history, like what she was like with Chris. But, it seems very real in this way. Her character is similiar to the lost girl in Girls guide with much the same career, life, upbringing, brother relationship, etc. Bank only seems to write what she knows as most characters become boringly all writers, or painters, publishers, editors, with an occasional doctor thrown in. Bank is such a sharp witty writer, that even though this book is definitely not the magic of her first book, it's still good, and well developed. The ending is a little abrubt, and not profound at all. it does not leave you with unanswered questions, but rather without any sense of knowing what will happen or if our Sophie has really finished her journey. I would recommend Girls Guide more readily, but still would read anyting else by Bank in the future. She's got an amazing gift for tone, and knowing her characters.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
A series of connected short stories, The Wonder Spot chronicles a young woman’s maturation from awkward young woman (black sheep of the family) into...Read more