I picked up Good in Bed to find out what women’s fiction master Jennifer Weiner is all about. Her book, In Her Shoes, was made into a movie with Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz in 2005, and this summer her book Fly Away Home made a big splash when it came out. Good in Bed was her first novel. Here’s the cover copy:
Pop culture reporter Cannie Shapiro writes about other people in the Philadelphia Examiner. One day she opens a women’s magazine and finds her ex-boyfriend has chronicled their ex-sex life together. She had not known Bruce thought her a “larger woman,” or that he felt loving her had been an act of courage. Life wasn’t always easy.
I was pulled into the novel with the first scene* when Cannie discovers the magazine article her exboyfriend wrote about his experience loving a larger woman. After only seeing Cannie’s negative reaction, the readers are given a chance to read the article to find that it’s actually a rather complimentary piece. I really love that contradiction because it leaves ambiguity: Bruce isn’t cast in stone as evil. That ambiguity allows us to root Cannie on as she subsequently decides she made a mistake letting Bruce go and tries to win him back.
However, at other parts believability is an issue in the novel. It’s not just that her screenplay ends up selling and is paid so much that she’s set for life, or that she becomes best friends with a movie star (and there is no drama that ensues), or even that she gets pregnant and then has a dramatic delivery, but there are parts of her character I don’t believe. For example, although she claims to be worrying about her baby constantly, after Cannie gives birth she is still focusing on herself, and the baby is always mentioned as an afterthought. I almost put down the book because I was so frustrated with her. To be the mother she claimed she was, all her thoughts should be on the baby, especially considering she isn’t sure the baby is even going to survive.
Perhaps my biggest issue with this novel is its tendency to tell instead of show. The first third of the book is solid scenes where we see Cannie and the other characters interacting, but by the last third the chapters are mostly summary of what happened in between scenes. When Cannie is depressed, we are told how she walks and walks and walks, but I didn’t feel her pain until we saw a scene of her getting lost in a bad neighborhood and relying on someone else to get her out of there. While sometimes summary is the best way to move a story forward, it is in showing, not telling, that the reader really connects with characters.
At the end of the day, Cannie is a sharp, lovable, and relateable character. After the first third of the book, I was already raving about it to everyone I spoke to. That elation with the book alone was worth it, although I thought the end of the novel could have used more work. While not a masterpiece, Good in Bed is a fun novel.
*I wouldn’t be surprised if the first scene was originally in the middle of the novel and the original first scene was back story that ultimately Jennifer Weiner, her agent, or her editor decided wasn’t where the story started.