A Writer's Closet

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Location: Southern California

Monday, November 14, 2005

Good In Bed--A book review

Good In Bed, Jennifer Weiner's first novel, covers a year in the life of Candace "Cannie" Shapiro, a pop culture reporter for The Philadelphia Examiner, and starts off with a delicious roar. Cannie's best friend Samantha gives her a head's up that her ex-boyfriend Bruce has written a column called "Loving A Larger Woman." He's shortened her name to "C." in a passing attempt at anonimity, but anyone who knows Cannie or Bruce immediately knows she it's about her and she's publically humiliated in a national magazine. Cannie's initially reaction is homicidal fury, but after reading the full article Bruce has written about her, she sinks into deep despair over relationship regrets and her life goes downhill fast.

Sympathizing with Cannie is a guilty pleasure in the beginning of the book. She's acting whiny and pathetic, but she knows it, hates herself for it, and is still unable to pull herself out of it. There is an almost voyeuristic quality to this part of the novel as Weiner captures the agony of breakups, the self-doubt, second guessing the decision to split, pouring through endless "what if" scenarios. Adding to the calamity are Cannie's recently gay mother, her creepy siblings, and her new endevor to participate in a trial study at a weight and eating disorders clinic. Also prominent in her life is Nifkin, her "weird little dog." Cannie bounces back and forth between fury over the humiliation and anguish that she has passed on the one man who may have loved her forever for who she was.

Weiner treads on dangerous ground in the middle of the book as Cannie has a number of things happen to her which strains the story's previous realism and credibility, which is what makes Cannie so appealing in the first place. The novel deviates from that and becomes a little formulamatic, less real and engaging. Satisfying though the events are, the middle of the novel requires a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief.

In the end Good In Bed suffers from an identity crisis. One moment it is frothy and funny, and sardonic one liners abound, the next almost too painful to read as Cannie goes through her excrucating emotional turmoil. Weiner can't seem to make up her mind what kind of novel she wanted to write. Fortunately that is one of the reasons why the book works, but it's a dicey gamble in places. Good In Bed is like having lowfat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream--tasty while it's going down but not quite satisfying enough for what I really wanted. I would classify Good In Bed as a light beach read, quick enjoyment taken with a grain of salt.


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