Admittedly, I approached Amanda Bell with a degree of caution. I am, to say the least, wary of fiction, especially fiction centered around a female protagonist who is on a path of self-understanding and realization. The soppy novels of an Emily Giffin or a Helen Fielding come to mind.
But rest assured, Jeff Minick’s first novel is in no way a Bridget Jones’s Diary with a traditionalist flavor. Neither does it possess the disagreeable naturalism of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons—another novel about a young woman trying to make it in Middle America. Instead, Amanda Bell appeals without being sappy, anachronistic, or sanctimonious. Long known to Chronicles readers for his Letter to the Bishop columns (written under the monicker “Joe Ecclesia”) and mesmerizing stories of life in North Carolina, Minick takes his audience on an intimate tour of one young life that is formed, shattered, and rebuilt against the backdrop of today’s American South.
Minick’s Amanda Bell is an accurate, if dramatized, example of today’s “professional woman”—a species forged in the wretched crucible of feminism, faithlessness, and political correctness. With Dostoyevskian skill, Minick breaks up his heroine’s persona into three distinct stages.