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'Guy Not Taken' showcases a maturing Weiner


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In Her Shoes author Jennifer Weiner is resigned to the fact that in some circles she is referred to as the "Queen of Chick Lit." But I challenge anyone who says her short-story collection, The Guy Not Taken, isn't serious women's fiction.

Not that there's anything wrong with chick lit, but the women in these stories are a far cry from the Manolo-obsessed bubbleheads sometimes found in chick lit novels. These women apply healthy doses of self-doubt, loneliness and misgivings along with their lip gloss and mascara.

The 11 stories in The Guy Not Taken have an interesting history and arrangement. Written by Weiner over 18 years, they are arranged not in the order in which they were written but chronologically based on the ages of the main protagonists.

The first two, "Just Desserts" and "Travels With Nicki," were written while Weiner was a student at Princeton. They feature two sisters whose teenage lives -- like Weiner's -- play out against the backdrop of their parents' divorce and its aftershocks.

Some of the best stories -- and this certainly says something about Weiner's maturation as writer -- are the ones she wrote most recently.

In "The Mother's Hour" (2006), the newly minted friendship between two mothers with different lifestyles and backgrounds is shattered by suspicion and judgments based on appearances.

The signature story, "The Guy Not Taken" (2005), takes on a magic-realism quality when a lonely stay-at-home mom finds her ex-boyfriend's name on an online wedding gift registry. She deletes the name of his fiancee and inserts her own. The rest of the story is a delicious reminder to be careful what you wish for.

All the stories in Weiner's collection have that "Calgon, Take Me Away" quality to which smart women, whose lives are complicated by careers, men, babies, parents and siblings, can relate.

*Watch a video of Weiner reading from her book at myspace.com/uncanniegirl.

The Guy Not Taken

By Jennifer Weiner

Atria, 292 pp., $24.95

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© Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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