Review: ‘The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing’

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The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing

By Melissa Bank

  • Date Finished: March 2, 2014
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 1999
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Winter 2013-14
  • Grade: A-
  • Thoughts after reading:

I’m surprised that I gave The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing as high a grade as I did because when I started, I fully expected it to be just an “in-between” book. It’s hard to follow up Bill Bryson, and I really didn’t know why I decided to buy it other than I had seen it around used bookstores/library sales for awhile, and at one point, I heard something about it. Don’t know what. But something. I figured it would be some frothy chick lit, and that would be it.

But man, was I surprised. This book is still, technically, chick lit, but in the moody, dark, hilarious and smart way – not frothy or foamy or bubbly at all. The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a book about women and relationships, but you really don’t notice that fact while you’re reading it. In fact, I didn’t realize the title was a pun on the idea of using hunting and fishing metaphors for women seeking a suitable man until the very, very, very end. I just thought it was a book with a weird title.

No, while reading, this book appears to be the story of Jane, who grows up from being 14 in the first chapter to a 30-something working in advertising in New York City. During that time, she analyzes the relationships around her – her brother’s, her parents’ – falls in and out of relationships with various men and has a long affair with a much older man during her mid-20’s. She also deals with the death of her father, and begins and ends a career in publishing when she realizes she just “doesn’t have it.”

Jane is hilarious, and tells her story with an evolving and maturing sense of humor and poignancy. At the end, it seems she’s finally settled into her own, but then meets a man she really likes and seemingly re-lives the past 20 years of relationship mishaps all in a futile attempt to “catch” the man of her dreams. It all seems rather cheesy and silly, but I loved it. I laughed at Jane, but also cried a little bit at her observations of life. I can’t say I necessarily relate, being, as I have been, in a relationship with the same guy for almost 10 years. Hopefully, I will never be in Jane’s place again. But still, I understand as, I think, nearly all women can understand who have flipped out a little bit over relationships.

I will say the end does seem a little forced – an easy way out – but it was satisfying, and really, that’s all I care about. This book isn’t what I’d call “high literature”, but it was smart, clever and perfect for what I wanted. And really, that’s all that matters.

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