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!