Melissa Bank’s books are graced with very pickup-able covers, wouldn’t you say? Her first book, The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, accompanied me on an 18 hour train ride from Atlanta to NYC. It made for chatty company that kept me up reading under a trickle of light until I fell asleep with one hand holding my page and the other failing to cushion my face against a spotty Amtrak window. I remember liking Girl’s Guide just enough to try another Bank book.
I snatched The Wonder Spot from my sister’s shelf recently. Not quite the substantial meal I was hoping for, more like a light app with a stingy dessert. Not that I’m against either of those things, it just wasn’t what I ordered.
The best thing about The Wonder Spot is the structure. The sections chronologically mark a different part of Sophie’s life. We start in her childhood in a summer home at the Jersey shore when Sophie makes the case for why she shouldn’t have to attend Hebrew school.
From Hebrew school, to college and those anxious-ridden years just after, Sophie falls into odd friendships that don’t last, but make for slightly interesting slice of life scenes. After a decade or so into Sophie’s life, I started wondering if it was going anywhere. Not exactly the kind of dramatic question that usually keeps me reading, but very true to life.
These details and memories cycle round and round. I kept referring to this book as ‘The Wonder Years’, I guess I was waiting for the Winnie or Paul to show up and extract Sophie from her self absorption. No luck.While I liked this one more than Girl’s Guide, the two books are very similar in structure, content and unlikable characters.
But there were a few things to enjoy. … Bank’s depiction of life in NYC for a recent grad turned young professional turned thirty-something – bad apartments, no money, bad jobs, no money, one night stands – is pretty accurate. Life in New York feels microscopic one second, and full of possibilities the next.
The story itself takes its time and doesn’t end up terribly far from where it starts. The humor is quick and sprinkled where you least expect it. The most memorable parts for me were the college years where Sophie’s rich roommate, Venice, introduces her to the empowerment of knowingly dating a lothario (my favorite word in the book).
The same roommate also shares her love of classic movies, and the joy of owning certain scenes, like this one from The Heiress:
Her favorite came at the end of the movie: Years after standing Catherine up on the night they’re supposed to elope, Morris comes back, and he’s knocking and then pounding on her door, and she says to her servant, “Bar the door, Maria.”
“‘Bar the door, Maria,’” Venice said. “The rallying cry of jilted women everywhere.”
Of all scenes in all the old movies Bank could have chosen, she walked into mine. And for that reason I hope we see another book from her soon.