Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
It’s only fitting that I start this blog with the book that started it all for me. While some credit the birth of what we know as chick lit with the publication of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, the first true chick lit novel I ever read was Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. I was fresh from a gut-wrenching breakup (literally… I ended up in the ER with an ulcer) with my college boyfriend and a trip to Borders with a friend, ostensibly to cheer me up, was doing nothing to cheer me up. Every novel I read the back of seemed to have to do with love, and that was the last thing I wanted to read about. My sister told me that I should read Good in Bed, about a “larger woman” whose boyfriend breaks up with her and then goes on to write a column about loving a larger woman. As someone who has, admittedly, been considered a “big girl” for most of my life, I couldn’t resist.
Thank you, Jennifer Weiner, for dragging me (albeit kicking and screaming) through that time in my life. In her first novel, and the one I still think is her best, she introduced me to the idea of a plus-sized heroine and confirmed my suspicion that there is life after a catastrophic breakup. Cannie Shapiro is the protagonist, a journalist who undergoes a series of life changes during what started out to be a very challenging year. Not only does she have to deal with the relationship ending, but her mother comes out of the closet as a lesbian.
This book has been called a twenty-first century fairy tale, one in which the (Jewish American) Princess decides that she’s going to take matters into her own hands and rescue herself. What I loved about it was that, unlike so many Cinderella stories, she doesn’t also come out of it as a size 4. Jennifer Weiner has a pattern of featuring larger girls as her main characters without making their weight the entire focal point of the story, which is a novel (no pun intended) concept. To be whatever weight you are, especially as a female, and to accept your shape for what it is without drowning in misery about not being a sylph is quite refreshing. The plot does take some odd and unexpected turns, but isn’t the mark of a good fiction writer someone who can make you buy into a story and suspend your disbelief not grudgingly, but with delight at a bit of escapism?
Good in Bed has all of the other typical chick lit trappings; to name a few: a childhood trauma, some quirky relatives, a guilty indulgence (Cannie has a penchant for MAC makeup), and of course a pet with a quirky name. You could say that’s formulaic, but this book was one of the ones to set the formula.