Melissa Banks’ The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing had been on my to-read list for awhile, another one of those added from “Best Books for Your Twenties” and “Best Books for Female Ice-Fishers” and other such lists. I didn’t quite know what to expect from it, but whatever my expectation, it wasn’t what I got.
The book was framed as a series of short vignettes, mostly from the life of Jane, from her teenage years through late twenty-something yuppie days in New York City. Jarringly, one chapter from the point-of-view of Jane’s neighbor was also thrown in – I liked it for offering a different perspective from and on Jane, but it felt isolated from the rest of the book.While Bank’s prose often is gorgeous and her witty one-lines fall pointedly from Jane’s mouth, the writing fails to excavate something original amongst the trite issues she digs at.
Plot-wise, to be honest, I loved the beginning and then it went downhill from there. As a teenager, her protagonist Jane’s voice feels simultaneously fresh and jaded, divulging surprisingly insightful impressions of familial relationships and burgeoning romances. But as she grows and becomes entangled with Archie, a much older man whom she is dependent on personally and professionally, I cease to relate to or respect her choices. The woman is man-fishing and husband-hunting in utterly wrong ways, largely trying to conform to what she imagines males want her to bring to their relationship. It’s dated and, worse, strikingly anti-feminist. Banks should’ve stuck to the non-romantic loves, because it’s when Jane discusses her cancer-struck father or her adored big brother that her story is most moving despite the cliche.
In a sea of worthwhile books, TV shows, and films about being a young woman grappling with adulthood and singledom, this is nothing special. Jane can be an everywoman but, in the end, she doesn’t give us any wisdom or hope that we don’t already know and have. Completely forgettable.