Lisi Harrison’s The Dirty Book Club (Gallery Books, 2017) is what happens when the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants grows up and pants become erotic novels. Embracing the bonds between women, The Dirty Book Club begins in 1962 when a group of friends start their own secret club, the aptly named Dirty Book Club. The DBC is centered around books about sex and the own sex lives of the four original members. The women seal the pact of secrecy with the smoke of their Lucky Strikes.
M.J. befriends one of the original DBC members when she moves to California, but the friendship is short-lived as Gloria soon moves to Paris to honor another pact of the original DBC. The move to Paris marks the time for a new set of members for the DBC. The founding members pick their replacements, hand them the keys to the club, and a list of rules. The four chosen women, M.J., Britt, Jules, and Addie, are little more than strangers and would never have organically created that friend group.
Forced into the relationship by the four women who hand selected them, the new members are wary of each other and reluctant to read the dirty books and share their deeply guarded secrets. But the original DBC expected such resistance – each member has drafted a letter to correspond to a reading selection. These letters, the insight into the women whose friendship has lasted over half of a century, help form the bonds between M.J., Britt, Jules and Addie – bonds that strengthen over secrets and sex, love and loss, hope and heartbreak.
The erotica, significantly more taboo during the original DBC’s tenure, is the bridge that brings the four young women together, but it is their hearts and the need for female companionship that wraps around them and holds them in the club.
It’s a cute book. It doesn’t put a lot of flesh on the bones of some pretty serious issues (abuse, alcoholism, depression, adultery, miscarriage), and that seems a bit of miss, but it’s a cute and easy read.