THE WONDER SPOT
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Fans of the megasuccessful Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing , rejoice. Bank is back with an equally entertaining first novel, starring Sophie Applebaum, a sarcastic, self-deprecating middle child from a suburban Jewish family who moves from a fish-out-of-water adolescence to a how-did-I-get-here adulthood. Likable Sophie's (mis)adventures in life and love include an attempt to use lyrics from Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" to argue against the necessity of attending Hebrew school and a penchant for imagining her future life with men she barely knows (a potential beau's ability to cook fish becomes "a metaphor for the hard things we will face together"). A slightly cynical yet romantic optimism grounds Sophie—and gives Bank plenty of opportunities for clever quips: cribbing a career objective in publishing from a résumé handbook, Sophie diligently copies exercises found in the long-overdue library book 20th Century Typing , including "Know Your Typewriter," and she agrees to a blind date with a pediatric surgeon by noting that she possesses her own "pediatric heart." But this isn't just another urban chick-lit bildungsroman; Bank's work also features the intriguing transformations of the other Applebaums: a grandmother's slip into senility, Sophie's mother's dip into infidelity, a brother's turn toward Orthodox Judaism. Through it all, Sophie never quite escapes the sense of being a "solid trying to do a liquid's job," a feeling as frightening as it is familiar to those struggling to achieve a grownup self-awareness. Engrossing, engaging—it's a wonderful return for Bank. 12-city author tour. Agent, Molly Friedrich. (June 7)