Title: The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
Author: Melissa Bank
Published: 2005 Penguin (orig. 1999)
Read For: recommended by book club buddy
My Rating: 4
I enjoy claiming that I like depressing books and music--enjoying something depressing sounds like an impossibility, doesn't it? If I'm enjoying it, then how could it truly be depressing? I get a lot of cheap entertainment out of thoughts like that. Nobody else around me thinks it's all that funny, but they're polite and reward my silly beaming smile with a courtesy chuckle.
What I mean when I say 'depressing' is thoughtful, somewhat introspective. The reason I say 'I like depressing' (apart from being easily entertained) is because those thoughtful, introspective things are rewarding to me, and often seem to be gloomy to other people. When I read the reviews on GoodReads for The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, I found that this book was a prime example. Most people seemed to think that it was depressing and disconnected. They seemed to be saying, "If this is chick-lit, I don't like it!" Which of course means that I thought it was entertaining and thoughtful and was thinking, "If this is chick-lit, I like it!"
This isn't a new book. In fact, it seems to be credited as being one of the first "chick-lit" books, pioneering a new genre along with Bridget Jones (another I liked). This genre has since evolved into something that seems to have become a bit more predictable (if not in story, then in style) as typifies any genre. What seems to happen is that a specific book or author is credited with spurring a change in literature, but when judged through the lens of all the books that have come after it, having been affected by it, the original piece doesn't shine as bright. Like James Joyce--huge contribution to literature even though his stuff isn't often thought of as rewarding, fun reading. (Now don't get all excited, I'm not say that Melissa Bank is the new James Joyce or that chick-lit is the new academic darling. Just making a point about viewing a pioneering work with certain expectations.) As is often the case, if you get your hopes set too high, you are disappointed. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing has suffered this fate for many readers, I believe.
In this collection of short stories, we see Jane at different periods in her life, dealing with the consuming struggle to find happiness in love. The book isn't simply a "girl looking for Mr. Right" story, though, and that's one of the things I appreciated about it. It's the story of family, of loss, of finding yourself, of what happiness is. One of the stories doesn't even have Jane in it--it focuses on a neighbor instead--but the themes fit together perfectly. Another fun thing was that each story had a different flavor. One story is told in 2nd person, another features some fabulous internal dialogue. It was quick and sweet, yet had substance.
This was a great detour from the classics I've been reading. The unique format was refreshing for me, and the balance of humor and thoughtful themes suited me perfectly. Is there any other 'depressing' chick-lit out there that I should know about? It's always great to have a varied TBR, and mine is lacking in this area. Recommend away!