Author Melissa Bank takes readers along as Sophie Applebaum comes of age in The Wonder Spot. From her childhood in the suburbs of Pennsylvania to living in New York City as a young adult, readers will experience the highs and lows of Sophie's life cycle.
The Wonder Spot opens as Sophie and her family attend her cousin's bat mitzvah in Chappaqua, New York. The story progresses through Sophie's adolescence, college years, and early adulthood. Over the course of the novel, Sophie will find herself working for her brother's ex-girlfriend, accepting a date with a neurologist as eagerly as she accepts one with a biker, and agonizing over friendships. Perhaps most poignant is Sophie's disappointing experience at Hebrew School. Torn between the desire to make friends and the desire to please family, Sophie struggles with making the right choice.
One of Sophie's earliest wake up calls comes when she and her father sit down to consider prospective colleges. "Not Brown but Bowling Green; not Wesleyan but Ohio Wesleyan, not Williams or Smith, but William Smith. Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me that my grades and test scores over the years were anything more than individual humiliations; I hadn't realized that one day all of them would add up and count against me." Even after she graduates, Sophie struggles to find direction and passion in life. Whereas her brother seemed to know intuitively that he wanted to be a doctor and one of her colleagues settled on a career as an editor early on, Sophie seems to struggle with establishing and reaching a goal.
Sophie's experience as an introspective, self-critical Jewish girl is easily relatable for anyone who experienced a difficult adolescence. Sophie never seems quite comfortable in her own skin even as an adult; she is riddled with self-doubt and self-consciousness. Sophie's life and personality stand in contrast to her brothers'. Her younger brother, Robert, becomes a physician and marries an Orthodox Jew. Sophie's older brother, Jack, finally meets his equal and is challenged by joining her big family.
Melissa Bank's first novel, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, was published in 1999. Bank received an MFA from Cornell University and won the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction.