• The Dirty Book Club
The Dirty Book Club
Lisi Harrison
Women's Fiction
Gallery Books
October 10, 2017

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Clique series comes a novel about the importance of friendship, and, of course, the pleasure of a dirty book.

M.J. Stark’s life is picture-perfect—she has her dream job as a magazine editor, a sexy doctor boyfriend, and a glamorous life in New York City. But behind her success, there is a debilitating sense of loneliness. So when her boss betrays her and her boyfriend offers her a completely new life in California, she trades her cashmere for caftans and gives it a try. Once there, M.J. is left to fend for herself in a small beach town, with only the company of her elderly neighbor, Gloria, and an ocean that won’t shut up.

One afternoon, M.J. discovers that Gloria has suddenly moved to Paris with her friends to honor a fifty-year-old pact. And in lieu of a goodbye, she’s left a mysterious invitation to a secret club—one that only reads erotic books. Curious, M.J. accepts and meets the three other hand-selected club members. As they bond over naughty bestsellers and the shocking letters they inherited from the original club members, the four strangers start to divulge the intimate details of their own lives… and as they open up, they learn that friendship might just be the key to rewriting their own stories: all they needed was to find each other first.

Rule Number One: Tell no one. 

The title of this book might be a bit off-putting, or confusing. But I promise you this, the book itself is not dirty. Well, mostly not. Sure, there are a few questionable scenes with a vibrator, possibly a few hot incidents with a bald Brazilian, some sexy bathroom antics and a tub that falls through the ceiling of a bookstore after a dare. But, really, it’s not *that* kind of book. It is a charming story, though, of life, love, responsibility, and friendship, and how women have been coping with all of those for decades.

The premise of the book is cute. Four women, friends since childhood, gather weekly in alternating homes, during the 1960s. They exchange potato salad recipes, and talk about cleaning products, wifely responsibilities and a variety of other appropriate topics. Until at one gathering, the most liberated member of the group shares some insights about a risqué book she picked up while in France. With the help of some alcohol, the women slowly start to open up- about issues with men, questions about their sexuality, and more. And so, the Dirty Book Club is born. And when they seal their initial meeting with a smoke-filled ritual, they promise that when each of their significant others have passed, the original four will relocate to France and live out their days together.

As the book opens, the last of the four spouses has passed away. The original DBC founders are making their plans for relocation. But they have many secrets to pass down. So four replacement members are chosen. These successors are women in their thirties. They are incredibly different from one another- a recently relocated NYC writer, a healthy junkie mom/real estate agent, an event coordinator/makeup artist and a self-obsessed women’s clinic worker. But all share one similarity- they are basically without friends. Without a core group with whom they can share feelings, find a shoulder to cry on, vent to, drink or even perhaps share a dirty book with. The invites go over, at first, like a lead balloon. The chosen ones are too busy- some focused on jobs, others on motherhood and exercise, one concerned mostly with herself.  But as time passes, the women begin to count on each other. For little things, like sharing burnt bagels, or Minnie Mouse nightgowns. And then eventually, some bigger things, you know, like, borrowing a brand new Mini-Cooper, or taking five or six pregnancy tests together. They hit snags, as any friendships do, but they also, with some late arrivals, actually discuss several kinkier books, and then read letters from the founding members. And mostly, they at least make a start in figuring out their own lives, through their confidences in and discussions with one another.

I really liked the concept of the book. Every woman should have a tribe that they can count on for everything. And those women should support each other through thick and thin. And if a dirty book discussion becomes part of the friendship, well, all the better. There are important themes running throughout the book; don’t live to work, work to live, don’t take your significant other for granted, keep lines of

communication open, think about what it is you really want to do with life. A lot of wonderful ideas. And I really *wanted* them to be fully developed. But I felt like they fell short of the mark. The book started out strong, had some high points, but it faltered in other places, and fell short at the end. I was left feeling unfulfilled and hoping for a stronger conclusion. Overall, a great idea that needed a few tweaks.