When I was reading Melissa Bank’s book, I felt like someone who was unfashionably late for a party. I’ve missed the early fun, but I can still catch up. Published in 1999, I’ve heard of this best-selling book, but didn’t pick it up until this past September. During a nerve-wracking trip to New York City to attend a pitch conference, I found comfort in Bank’s irresistible heroine, Jane Rosenthal.
We first meet Jane as a precocious teenager who offers this alternative definition of lifeguard: it signifies “a man’s desire to copulate and guard the perpetuation of the species.” And when the lifeguard blows his whistle, she adds, “Mating call.”
Later on, when Jane is in her 20s, she meets her boyfriend’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend, Bella, who calls her “Janie.” In return, she calls her “Belly.” Jane is funny and witty, the kind of friend I would love to spend my lunch breaks with.
Jane navigates the ups and downs of growing up—falling in love and breaking up, coping with her father’s death, struggling with her publishing career, and ultimately finding the right person. It was a journey I enjoyed.
Dubbed as “linked short stories,” the book has the feel of a literary novel. It’s full of good humor about concerns that most women would appreciate.
The only thing I didn’t like is the chapter about the neighbors of Jane’s aunt. The new characters show up just once, somewhere in the middle of the book, like party crashers who arrived even later than me. I didn’t know what to make of them. It was as if Bank’s manuscript was too slim and she needed the extra chapter to boost its word count. Other than that, “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing” is like Jane: charming, clever, and a lot of fun.