Four women become unlikely allies when chosen to take over an existing "Dirty Book Club” in Harrison's first novel for adults.
It’s easy to get a bit confused following the events of this novel. There are four present-day female characters of note and four ladies from the past (not dead, though it sometimes feels that way), and each of the eight women struggles with her relationships, so there's a lot to track. The location is the fictional Pearl Beach, California, and the nominal protagonist is M.J., who moves there in a huff after her promotion at a New York City magazine goes awry, though she tells herself—and others—that she moved to be with her boyfriend, Dan. Dan lives next door to Gloria Golden, one of the Dirty Book Club founders, who, when her husband dies, swiftly moves to Paris with the other founding members, fulfilling a 54-year-old promise and leaving behind a bevy of rituals and instructions for M.J. and three others: Addie, the sexually liberated cynic, Jules, the sweet Southern romantic, and Britt, the sharp-tongued but disillusioned wife/mother/realtor. Initially, the women are (at best) wary of each other, and Harrison is snarky toward all of them, giving much of the book a sharp feel that is sometimes funny but lacks the warmth that appears when the original members make an appearance—they're glimpsed through the notes they took after each of their book-club meetings and seem a very Ya-Ya bunch. But the modern women bond over their respective predicaments, a handful of high jinks, and a lot of talk about what one should expect from a romantic relationship and how friendship can potentially fill in the gaps.
There are many loose threads, though the ending is a relatively happy one. To her credit, in the knots she does tie up, Harrison avoids easy or expected solutions to complicated, adult situations.