BookBin2010: The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Although I finished Melissa Bank’s novel, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, approximately a week ago, I’m just now getting around to writing this review. That was probably a huge mistake on my part.

I’m finding it rather difficult to come up with what I’d like to say about this book. It’s not that I hated the novel, which is in fact a collection of vignettes either narrated by, focused upon, or somehow related to the book’s protagonist, Jane Rosenal. It’s more a matter of my own failure to retain memories of this book. It seems that, within the past week, the stories have faded and blurred like sidewalk chalk drawings in a summer storm.

The one thing that has prevailed, though, are my thoughts about Bank’s writing style: controlled, concise, and very much indebted to Raymond Carver. I’ve mentioned Carver here before, but only in passing. He happens to be one of my favorite short story authors, mainly for his inclination toward, in his own words, “brevity and intensity.” His prose is beautifully restrained, forcing you to savor each word, let it linger on your palate until you’ve drained it of every meaning, every flavor. Even then, there’s still more to find in subsequent visits to his worlds.

I wish I felt the same about Bank’s debut novel. However, there was very little depth within these stories for me to plumb. There are moments of beauty, wit, and warmth suffused throughout, but the stories themselves lacked the ability to reach me in any meaningful way. I suppose that’s in part due to my innate aversion to “chick lit,” a literary subgenre that sets my teeth on edge.

Does Bank’s debut qualify as part of this subgenre? Perhaps not in the traditional way of writers such as Candace Bushnell or Jennifer Weiner, but, yes, I believe that it has the flavor of chick lit about it…and that’s unfortunately a flavor I do not savor. I do think that Jane Rosenal’s life and love experiences are more universally relatable than, say, Carrie Bradshaw’s jejune exploits (let the flaming begin), but holistically, she was not a character with whom I could or would want to connect.

Final Verdict: The fact that these stories didn’t stay with me means that this book doesn’t get to stay with me either. It was a quick read with enjoyable moments, but if I want a Raymond Carver-esque reading experience that leaves a bit of a stronger impression on my soul, I’m going to go with Raymond Carver.