The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes by Bridget Canning

Imagine you performed an unintentional heroic act that was caught on video and shared with the world. What would you do? How would you react? This is the premise of Bridget Canning‘s debut, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes. It’s fun, smart, thought-provoking, and very relevant to the world we live in right now.

Wanda Jaynes is at the grocery store buying a can of coconut milk when a gunman enters the store and opens fire. When Wanda’s automatic reaction to the situation takes down the shooter she becomes an instant hero in her town, and all over the internet. The problem is, Wanda doesn’t feel like a hero, and really does not want to be one. Not having had time yet to face her own trauma, she just wants to be left alone.

More than 40,000 views. More than the population of Trepassey. More people than she’s ever known, all watching the worst moment of her life. Sitting at their screens. Probably eating chips. Touching their keyboards with their sticky fingers, typing some semi-literate observation. Clicking the mouse to share it with the followers of their egos. Look at this now. Something else, isn’t it.

Wanda is inundated with e-mails, texts, well-wishers, fans, creeps, and even her own memes (“Grocery list: milk eggs butter and a can o’whoop ass“). She can’t go anywhere without being recognized. She’s having panic attacks in her car on the way to work. She’s digging at her spreading eczema. She’s having trouble sleeping, she’s drinking way too much, and not eating nearly enough. And on top of all that, she suspects her partner might be romantically interested in one of their friends. We watch Wanda lose herself amidst this social media circus. With blistering sarcastic thoughts and deep irritation with people who don’t proofread their status updates, this book had me both laughing and wincing with sympathy at the same time.

Wanda’s relationship with Ivan feels modern – a common law partnership in which they both work, cook, bake, clean, and serve each other tea (among other beverages). But their relationship is seriously put to the test over recent events; Ivan can’t seem to understand why Wanda’s not able to look at her situation in a more positive light.

The author’s use of social media and the internet is spot on; no one is without their phone; everyone is texting and checking Facebook; videos and memes of Wanda and about Wanda spread like wildfire, and with them a fallout of shock, confusion, and controversy. There’s even some exploration of faith; religion versus atheism, miracles versus chance.

A new video has been posted within the last two hours. She clicks play. It starts with the clip from the CBC interview: Wanda responding to Genevieve’s question about miracles. It shuts off when she finishes. Deep, low booing from the audience. Joseph Nigel Workman paces the stage in a lean, pinstriped suit. “People, I know how you feel. It’s like giving someone a diamond and they respond that they prefer plastic. It’s like cutting down roses to hang paper flowers. It’s sad and it’s the sickness of promotion of the self over God.” He presses his hand to his heart. “This conceited woman, Wanda Jaynes, was given the power of good. Yet, she cannot bring herself to acknowledge it. Shame.”

And as a bonus, this is the best-smelling book I’ve read in a long time.

Thank you to Breakwater Books for sending me a copy of this book for review. I’m looking forward to whatever it is that Bridget Canning writes next!

This is the cover you’ll see at Goodreads. I much prefer the cover of the copy that was sent to me (pictured above). What do you think?


36 thoughts on “The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes by Bridget Canning

  1. FictionFan says:

    This sounds good! The whole youtube thing is so addictive – watching little pieces of people’s lives out of context and then judging them. And I get hypnotised by the depths of vileness the comments usually reach within about five minutes of posting, even on a feel-good clip! I don’t think I’m cut out for the modern world… 😉 I like that she sounds as if she’s steered a middle course between serious and seeing the lighter side of it too.

    • Naomi says:

      I find all that stuff fascinating, too, while at the same time repulsed by it. I don’t read a lot of super-contemporary books like this, but I’d read more of them if they were all this entertaining!

  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings says:

    I think my reaction would be the same as yours: being amused and wincing with sympathy at the same time. I will look for this; it sounds like a contemporary novel I would enjoy

    • Naomi says:

      I was surprised by how much I liked it… which is what usually happens when I’m sent a book that I don’t know anything about and then it’s good. It’s the best feeling!

  3. Liz Dexter says:

    Oh that sounds fascinating and really well done – also it will be so of its time in a decade or so, like the stories about women and the realities of motherhood that came out in the 1970s and 80s, talking about stuff that had never been talked about before, and some of the gay-themed books of those years, too. I love that sense of time and place you sometimes get.

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, you’re right – people reading this in 10 or 20 years will be taken right back. I think I’ll keep my copy for that very reason and see how it hits me in another ten years. What will be different by then I wonder?

  4. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’m glad to hear authors are working harder to set contemporary books in a place that looks contemporary: phones, social media, lack of privacy. Authors are doing some really lazy stuff lately to avoid including technology.

    • Naomi says:

      You’d like this one, then! I was surprised by how much I appreciated reading about the world as it is now – maybe I’ve just been finding that most writers don’t do it well enough.

  5. The Cue Card says:

    Yeah the top book cover seems much better, maybe less sexist too. It sounds like a book with good humor. I hadn’t heard of it so thx for introducing the book to me.

  6. buriedinprint says:

    Coconut milk?! LOL Can hardly less of a less-Canlit-ty premise. Now keenly interested! Thanks, Naomi!

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