We gave it an A-
In this swinging, funny, and tender study of contemporary relationships, examined in seven linked stories, Melissa Bank refutes, once and for all, the popular notion of neurotic thirtysomething single women. Jane Rosenal, the heroine, isn’t sex-starved, fertility-obsessed, or magnetically drawn to making foolish choices. She’s just a bright, warm, attractive advertising executive with a functioning family, a klatch of friends, an ex-boyfriend or two, and a confidence that her instincts are essentially in working order, even if her romantic life is subject to power outages.
As is inevitable in a collection, some stories are stronger and more passionately presented than others. (Bank frustratingly collapses ”You Could Be Anyone” into a sketch when it teases with material enough for a novel.) And sometimes, just occasionally, the author’s snappy heroine is a gust or two breezier and more self- congratulatory than circumstances require. But all is redeemed — and the prepublication excitement about Girls’ Guide is warranted — by the title story, in which Jane tries, hilariously, to ”meet and keep” a man by using the kind of guidelines set forth in such regressive maiden manuals as ”The Rules.”
The revolutionary, exciting part of ”Girls’ Guide” is that Jane learns she doesn’t need rules, or wiles, or a slimming wardrobe. Like Bridget Jones, she just needs to be herself and stay in the water. Ditto for Bank, who fishes deep in her literary debut and hooks a winner.