JTA – Melissa Bank, whose stories of flawed, funny Jewish heroines searching for love and fulfillment won over readers’ hearts around the world, died Tuesday at age 61 of lung cancer.

Bank’s publisher, Penguin, confirmed her death in a statement. “She captivated generations of readers with her warmly piercing takes on relationships, family and adulthood,” the publisher said.

Bank, whom The Los Angeles Times famously dubbed “like John Cheever, only funnier,” published just two books during her career: “The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing,” in 1999, and “The Wonder Spot,” in 2005.

But both were bestsellers, and “Girls’ Guide” was a publishing phenomenon, spending months on The New York Times bestseller list. And both centered around single Jewish women finding their way in the world: Jane Rosenal, in “Girls’ Guide,” and Sophie Applebaum, in “Wonder Spot.”

In the snapshots of their lives Bank let readers glimpse through interlinked short stories, Jane and Sophie won over ardent fans by refusing to bend to the rules: both those governing the dating scene and the traditions that indebted them to their mothers and grandmothers. Their comic misadventures often intersected with Jewish life.

In “Wonder Spot,” Sophie plays hooky from Hebrew class, considers taking a job with a Jewish newspaper, and contends with a cousin’s bat mitzvah and a sister-in-law’s passive-aggressive attempts to impose kosher rules on her home.

Like her characters, Bank grew up in a middle-class Philadelphia Jewish family and lost her neurosurgeon father at a young age. She worked in copywriting as she pursued her career as an author, taking several years to write and revise each book.

After the publication of her second book, Bank became a faculty writing instructor at Stony Brook University Southampton. She also wrote a screenplay for a planned film adaptation of “Girls’ Guide” that was to have been produced by Frances Ford Coppola, but it has yet to materialize.

“Suburban Girl,” a film based on another story from the book, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin, was released in 2007.

Though Bank’s output was small, her effect on the lives of her readers was profound. “‘The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing’ Shaped My Twenties,” a Buzzfeed headline once proclaimed, and Bank’s readers had that kind of intimate connection with her authentic, witty depictions of young adulthood.

Supporting The Times of Israel isn’t a transaction for an online service, like subscribing to Netflix. The ToI Community is for people like you who care about a common good: ensuring that balanced, responsible coverage of Israel continues to be available to millions across the world, for free.

Sure, we'll remove all ads from your page and you'll gain access to some amazing Community-only content. But your support gives you something more profound than that: the pride of joining something that really matters.

We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

We have a new, improved comments system. To comment, simply register or sign in.

QOSHE - Bestselling Jewish author Melissa Bank dies at 61 - Andrew Lapin
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Bestselling Jewish author Melissa Bank dies at 61

8 8 1
05.08.2022

JTA – Melissa Bank, whose stories of flawed, funny Jewish heroines searching for love and fulfillment won over readers’ hearts around the world, died Tuesday at age 61 of lung cancer.

Bank’s publisher, Penguin, confirmed her death in a statement. “She captivated generations of readers with her warmly piercing takes on relationships, family and adulthood,” the publisher said.

Bank, whom The Los Angeles Times famously dubbed “like John Cheever, only funnier,” published just two books during her career: “The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing,” in 1999, and “The Wonder Spot,” in 2005.

But both were bestsellers, and “Girls’ Guide” was a publishing phenomenon, spending months on The New York Times bestseller list. And both centered around single Jewish women finding their way in the world: Jane Rosenal, in “Girls’ Guide,” and Sophie Applebaum, in “Wonder Spot.”

In the snapshots of their lives Bank let readers glimpse through........

© The Times of Israel


Get it on Google Play