If you ever planned on judging a book by its cover, I would hope you'd choose a book like the Memoir Club, which has a beautifully-designed cover with flowers, tea and coffee cups and the remains of pastry...it looks like the tabletop of a restaurant that serves high tea to ladies of quality.
Fortunately, the book lives up to its cover blurb from Bookreporter.com, which called it "A tender, wise and witty page-turner."
Kalpakian, my fellow Pacific Northwest dweller, has created quite a well-balanced, nutritious soupcon of characters, all of whom are interesting and grip you with their memoirs, even if you don't necessarily like them or want to have tea with them as people. Francine, the snobbish social-climber gets her come-uppance, and Amy Meadows, the daugther of a character who seemed unnecessarily weepy to me, is just a shallow b*tch who isn't terribly smart, though much of that could perhaps be laid at the feet of her youth.
Jill, the Korean adoptee is a bit too prickly for my tastes, but she was a fascinating character, as was Rusty, Nell, Caryn and my favorite, Sarah Jane, whose personal history read like a Mark Twain novel. Penny, the instructor doesn't count as much of a character because it's evident from the beginning that she's just a deus ex machina for the characters, and I wasn't surprised at all when they discovered she wasn't really a teacher and had no real address.
The characters meet each Wednesday night in to read and discuss the memoirs they are all writing, and in the process of putting their hearts on paper, they discover a great deal about themselves and each other, and become bonded as friends and family. I was amazed that Kalpakian had the chutzbah to use a womens health clinic and a crazy anti-abortion evangelical Christian group as a way to show the characters in a life-changing situation, mainly because so many novelists play it safe these days, because the Christian Right is such a strong and, in my opinion, oppressive and destructive lobby group, they dare not risk seeming "anti-Christian" for fear of boycotts and such. But Kalpakian is made of sterner stuff than your average novelist, and she firmly holds forth on the insanity of people who want to kill doctors who are only helping women in dire circumstances by showing the reader the internal workings of these crazies and the internal workings of a womens clinic that caters to the poor and disenfranchised.
The prose is slightly glossy, but sturdy and workmanlike underneath, and the plot clips along at a precise and rapid pace. Kalpakian runs a clean ship, and there's no dallying here or there on subplots or stupid characters that never see fruition, thank heaven.
I would recommend this book to those wanting their chick lit with a little more meat on it's bones and less frou-frou and whining.
It's well worth the price of a trade paperback.