The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes is Newfoundland writer Bridget Canning’s first novel–and it’s a lively, modern read. There is an enviable freshness to Canning’s writing, which is at times as hard hitting as Wanda Jaynes herself, who twice saves the day by putting herself in danger to save the lives of others. Hence the punning title, “greatest hits,” which our heroine both gives and takes. It also refers to the fevered amount of social media and internet activity that goes on in the story, and is amusingly illustrated à la text-box and Twitter-tweet.
Our heroine of the fast-moving thumbs, Wanda (I couldn’t help but think of the unforgettable Sissy Hankshaw, from Tom Robbins’ classic ode to hitchhiking, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), is a not an obvious candidate for selfless behaviour. She is just an in-debt, soon-to-be-laid-off teacher, who worries if her boyfriend is having an affair with a female bandmate and friend, and finds comfort in the absolutes of atheism. Wanda’s essentially unremarkable character raises one of the central points in the book, that most of us, pushed to our limits, are capable of unexpected bravery and quick action–or we hope we are. For example, what would you do if a man started shooting people in the grocery store you were shopping in? Wanda, dazed and frightened, still manages to cold cock the shooter with a can of coconut milk to the forehead. The resulting furor of media and internet attention is the last thing the deeply shaken Wanda expects to deal with. But think about it she must, as the attention grows wider in scope and then more personally threatening.
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes is energetic and witty. The phenomenon of one, then two events changing a person’s life forever is believably handled and the dialogue is as punchy as an Atlantic nor’easter. I don’t know if Wanda Jaynes will retain the cult status Sissy Hankshaw has … but she has a striking good chance.
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes