In the tradition of The Group, this is the real-life saga of five women who came to know each other in elementary school more than 35 years ago and continue to share in one another's sometimes tumultuous lives. Journalist Barrett (The Playgroup: Three Women Contend with the Myths of Motherhood, 1994) is not herself one of The Girls but spent two years interviewing and observing them in order to tell their stories. The chapters are divided into roughly five- year intervals, beginning in 1960 and ending with a summation of "The Eighties and Beyond." Each segment is framed with a brief profile of a contemporary celebrity, a device that works surprisingly well because of the quirky nature of the role models chosen. Among those starring in the introductory "fractured fairy tales," as Barrett calls them: the emaciated model Twiggy, presidential daughter Lynda Johnson Robb, transsexual opthalmologist Renee Richards, Patti Hearst (a.k.a. Tania), and of the Kennedys, alcoholic, intimidated Joan (not Jackie, Ethel, or Rose). The Girls—Betsy, Carole, Tammy, Donna, and Maude, all given fictional names—attended Catholic high school together, and a summer school trip to France solidified the friendships. When their parents and the nuns weren't looking, they smoked, drank, and tried dope and sex with a parade of boyfriends. They were all married by the time they were 20. When they reached their 40s, all the original husbands but one had been shed; Donna had lost 200 pounds, undergone a serious psychological breakdown, and was getting her Ph.D.; Betsy had returned to business school and started her own hair salon; Maude, after a long period in a lesbian relationship, was an entrepreneur and a single mother; Carole and Tammy had remarried successfully. They meet once a month to stoke their continuing friendship, exclaiming gleefully to a sixth woman, Cindy, who has been accepted into the group: "You're just a slut, like all the rest of us." Radical shifts in female roles as reflected in a group of spirited, engaging women.
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