Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THE DIRTY BOOK CLUB :: Lisi Harrison

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

A dirty martini will make you admit things to other people, but a dirty book? That will make you admit things to yourself…Each time you uncover one of these truths, a brick falls from the facade you've built around yourself and leaves a hole for the light to shine through. Men are wonderful, but wood alone can't cultivate that light. You need fire. You need girlfriends.

Gloria Golden and her three twenty-something girlfriends throw a potluck every full moon, complete with cigarettes, martinis and Neil Sedaka "spinning on the Magnavox." In 1962, they follow the tenets of marriage columnist Miss Matrimony and the publication Prim: A Modern Woman's Guide to Manners.

One evening, the women begin to question their truths and repressions, spurred by Gloria's marital woes and TWA stewardess Marjorie's latest Parisian souvenir, The Housewife's Handbook to Selective Promiscuity. Over the next 54 years, the group explores and pushes their boundaries by secretly reading evocative books. Against this glorious backdrop, four present-day women become the chosen successors to Gloria's generation. Disparate women who barely know each other and often don't even like each other, they all need to participate or the club will fold.

In The Dirty Book Club, Lisi Harrison charms with a kick-in-the-pants narrative replete with a Golden Girls/Maude vibe that is far from superficial despite its sublime sauciness. Harrison (Monster High) dissects relationships and self-determination in eight unique voices full of attitude and soul; smart and raucous dialogue will have readers rooting for her distinctive characters in search of their authentic selves. 

STREET SENSE: Some of the language in this book had me howling (and endlessly sharing naughty bits with Pop Culture Nerd; i.e., things dropping "like a hot testicle," cleavage described as "crevasse-deep...like an oversized change purse positioned to receive pennies from heaven."), yet it didn't lose its depth or turn into fluff (despite what the eventual cover art might say - see below). I really wanted more of the older generation and could have read an entire account of their club history and complex relationships. This may be simply because I'm old, but there was also much more substance to mine there. I fear this book may be categorized as "chick lit," and while I don't have anything against "chick lit" per se (other than that moniker, which kind of drives me nuts), it usually isn't in my wheelhouse. I personally wouldn't necessarily label this book that way and, even if so, still highly recommend it to those of you who, like me, think that genre isn't their bag.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  I should quote something deep here, because Harrison's writing has plenty of layers along with wonderful character moments and growth, but I just about swallowed my tongue laughing at this one and couldn't pass up sharing the following gem from the ladies of the older generation. You'll see why I loved them so.

[A car honks outside]

"Hold on a minute," Jules said. "Are you really dating a horn honker?"

Confused, Addie nodded.

"Oh, shugah, you can't. That man needs to go to cotillion and learn some manners."

"As long as he hits clit-illion first, I don't care where he goes," Addie said, fluffing her cleavage and then turning to leave.

COVER NERD SAYS: The Advanced Reading Copy I received displayed the cover on the left, which I adore. What better than a plain brown wrapper to enclose a book about women reading (and speaking) sexy literature? Plus that brown/blue combo is a knockout and they key sparks thoughts of a mystery. That cover is a winner. Then they had to go ruin it with the final cover on the right. Ugh. To me it reads as fluff and that is not what this book is. I was super disappointed. Perhaps even though I loved the book I'm not its target audience and the final cover is related to the publisher's thoughts on a specified market. However, I would stop for the first cover every day of the week and pass the one on the right without a second glance. Thoughts?


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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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