Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
(Pocket, $24.95, PG) ISBN 0-7434-1816-6
****
My advice to you, dear reader, is to go buy a nice, plain book jacket that will fit your average hardcover novel. Place it securely over the suggestive picture on the front cover of Good in Bed, then forget the book’s title as well. Because this novel is not a modern-day Fear of Flying, as both title and cover suggest, but a hysterically funny and incredibly moving story of a young woman moving from insecurity towards self-acceptance.

Cannie (short for Candace) Shapiro thought she was just taking a break from her relationship with Bruce, her boyfriend of three years (yeah, that’s what Friends’ Rachel thought about Ross too). So the 28-year old plus-sized entertainment reporter for the Philadelphia Examiner is outraged and humiliated when she learns that Bruce, now the author of a regular magazine column on relationships, has written a column entitled “Loving a Larger Woman.” He goes into much detail about his ex-girlfriend “C.,” focusing on her neuroses about her abundant size. (I never thought of myself as a chubby chaser. But when I met C., I fell for her wit, her laugh, her sparkling eyes. Her body, I decided, was something I could learn to live with…)

Cannie’s sense of betrayal is only the tip of the Titanic-like iceberg that her life is about to become. Over the course of the next year, she copes with the loss of love, unexpected personal and professional developments, a rewarding friendship with movie star Maxie Ryder (a transparent stand-in for the Good Will Huntingand Return To Me actress), and even the possibility of a new, more satisfying romance from an unlikely source.

Throughout all of her tribulations, Cannie can always count on her faithful rat terrier Nifkin, her best friend Samantha, and her well-meaning but embarrassing mother, who, in her mid-fifties, has discovered her inner lesbian and now lives with a woman who refers to heterosexuals as “breeders.”

I guarantee that you will laugh at least once in the novel’s first chapter. Debut novelist and Philadelphia newspaper reporter Jennifer Weiner has a canny (sorry) ability to create both humorous situations and one-line zingers (Cannie’s mom plays on the Switch Hitters softball team; their opponents are called Nine Women Out). She also writes dead-on parodies of the Hollywood lifestyle, including the scene in which Cannie interviews a movie producer who orders lettuce for lunch - torn, not cut - with vinegar on the side.

But the book is more than just a few good laughs. Cannie is a wonderful character - feisty, smart, caring. She is extremely insecure, primarily because of her father’s abandonment of the family years ago, but finally, by the novel’s end, she is able to accept herself, the life changes she has endured and her non-petite size. There are as many occasions for tears as chuckles as the plot develops, but don’t worry, Cannie ends up a winner, not a whiner.

The second half of the book falters at times. Without giving away too much of the plot, I will say that at one point Cannie finds herself in Hollywood for an extended period of time. While the Hollywood scenes are humorous, and the fantasy life that Cannie enjoys for a while intriguing, I liked her better back in gritty old Philadelphia. I wanted to see her gain self-esteem because of who she was inside, not because she conquered Tinseltown. My other quibble has to do with the eventual object of Cannie’s affection, who is almost too good to be true. He accepts all of her insecurities and lets her cry on his shoulder several times. I couldn’t help wondering what was in it for him, and I wanted him to have some deep dark secret so their relationship would be a little more balanced.

But here’s the bottom line: Good in Bed combines raucous humor and poignant drama more successfully than any other book I’ve read in a long time. The Philadelphia Inquirer might want to start looking for a new reporter; I think Jennifer Weiner has found her true calling as a novelist.

But let’s hope she chooses another graphic designer for her next book cover.

--Susan Scribner


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