The only good thing about waiting for a delayed flight is having a good book. The only thing better is having a good book that also happens to have been written by a friend. I am pleased to say that Jessica Anya Blau’s latest novel, THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER, is a hilarious, page-turning romp.
Of course I am not surprised. Jessica’s previous two novels (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and Drinking Closer to Home) also exhibited the same—shall we say—free-spiritedness that her writing was known for when we were in the Fiction Program at Johns Hopkins almost two decades ago. Though she was not the first of our cohort to publish (our buddy ZZ Packer quickly made headlines with her excellent story collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere), I knew Jessica eventually would because, of all of us, she always seemed to write for the sheer joy of it. So I knew at some point a wider audience would have the chance to experience her bouncy, bold, fearless style. And be grateful for it.
While sitting in the Houston Airport (a sprawling web of pros and cons, mostly cons) waiting for a “sit-towards-the-back-to-balance-the-weight” plane to McAllen (a two-car garage), I hardly noticed the screaming child 20 feet to my right because Jessica’s book is such a page-turner. A 1980’s spin on Alice in Wonderland, it is allusive without being heavy-handed. Although not erotic per se, it features a fair amount of frontal nudity, and most of the plot revolves around how the main character deals with a Wonder Bread bag full of cocaine that she has stolen from her boss. The plot definitely keeps you hooked, but I must say that I think the best accomplishment of this book is the writer’s ability to create and engender sympathy for such an array of memorable characters. Even looking at the bad guys, you can see why they are the way they are, and that makes them more human, even likable. And the scenes with Billy Idol are priceless.
I won’t say any more. Except this: Congrats, Jess. Well done.