The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank

2005.  324 pages. Hardcover

From: The public library

In a nutshell:

The Wonder Spot is a set of short stories about Sophie Appelbaum, a snarky but not particularly ambitious young woman.  The first story is the only one to take place in her childhood.  The rest follows her as an adult dealing with career, family and dating quandaries.


Sophie Appelbaum is not someone you would admire or want to emulate.  Almost every story has a new boyfriend with the relationship’s end already forecasted and she never accomplishes much job-wise.  I liked her though, for her humor and ordinariness and her observations about life that ring true.

What most rings true in the book is how people never fully understand each other: that there’s some part of us that will always remain a stranger.  Then there are the joyful moments of connection, and the book captures that too.

I liked reading about Sophie’s relationship with her family, especially her maternal grandmother in the chapter/story called “The One After You.”  I also liked her co-workers Adam and Francine in “20th Century Typing.”

The set-up of the book is very interesting.  All of the stories are about Sophie Appelbaum, told from her point of view.  Some characters resurface again, but others disappear completely with no explanation.  In one story, Sophie takes an art class and this is the focal point of the narrative.  In a later story, the art class is referred to off-handedly as if it was of little note.  Of course there is no way I could know, but I suspect that you could read any one of these stories by themselves and not be lost.  They are self-contained in a sense, and yet reading them together has the cumulative effect of seeing a life enfold over time.


Filed under Book Review

2 responses to “The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank

  1. Thanks for a great review! I usually don’t do well with books of short stories (I usually lose patience and end up abandoning them halfway through), but this sounds like one I might enjoy.

    • Books of short stories can be tough. The Wonder Spot could be a good choice because it’s all about the same character so it’s almost a novel/short story collection hybrid. A short story collection I really love is Catherine Tudish’s Tenney’s Landing.

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