"Want to put the puzzle together?
Your weakness is your strength.
Lose your mind to find your heart.
Through rage, make peace.
Dig deep. Make it hurt. Make it bleed."
-- from the Bitch Posse Notebook
I must come clean with you. I am not a fan of Chick Lit, nor am I a
fan of anything that is written in reaction to Chick Lit. I tend to
shy away from anything with an excess of pink on the cover or a
title that sounds overly hip or kitschy to make a point.
Furthermore, I grow bored with books about shopping or shoes or
women in their "Sex and the City" quest to buck the male-dominated
society while still managing to "find" a suitable man who fits into
their cookie cutter version of
reformed-bad-boy-turned-sensitive-and-responsible (yet still
blazing in bed!) perfection. Frankly, I find this type of
blathering somewhat tiresome in life, so why would I want to spend
my free time reading about it…even if I do happen to be on
Every once in a blue moon, however, I come across a book that in
some way, shape, or form seems like a not-too-distant bedfellow to
the aforementioned genre of Chick Lit/reaction-to-Chick-Lit Lit,
and (gasp!) I actually enjoy reading it. Such was the case when I
picked up Martha O'Connor's debut novel, THE BITCH POSSE. Yes, bare
skin is shown on the cover, and sure, there happens to be a pink
stripe off to the right of said bare skin, and of course the two
women who belong to (once again) the bare skin happen to be sitting
erotically close to each other. Fine. Now that I've pointed out
that the externals of this book seem to represent everything I
dislike about contemporary women's fiction, I will admit that I
found my reading experience to be quite unabashedly
THE BITCH POSSE chronicles the crisscrossed lives of three young
women, first as seniors in high school, then as "grown-up" women in
their mid-30s. As the point-of-view bounces from one girl to the
other, back and forth between 1988 (their senior year) and 2003
(the present), the muddled puzzle begins to slowly piece together
until, ultimately, readers are left with a no-holds barred, fully
disclosed "Aha!" moment at the novel's conclusion. As we turn the
last page, we not only uncover the dastardly, unmentionable secret
that each girl has been separately yet collectively guarding since
high school, but we also must grapple with the gritty, peeled back
version of what each girl's life has unfortunately become and
therefore fall witness to the fallibility of life, the indelibility
of choices, and the delicate nature of the human spirit.
O'Connor's characters are anything but flat. Although a bit
stereotypical at times and a tad over-the-top at others, most, if
not all of the people we meet in the book, are vibrant (albeit
twisted) and full of personality. The members of the badass Bitch
Posse --- Rennie (the smart one who has an affair with her married
drama teacher), Cherry (the cool one with the coke addict mother
and the boyfriend who sometimes gets a little too rough during
sex), and Amy (the reformed beauty queen/popular chick with the
alcoholic parents, the super indulged retarded sister, and the
not-so-surprising Xanax addiction) --- are exactly what we'd expect
from a trio of no-nonsense, till-death-do-us-part friends. They are
brash, equally outspoken in their own way, and are ready to take on
the world no matter what the cost --- especially now that they've
cemented their friendship by slicing their arms and dripping blood
into glass jars. Ouch.
Fifteen years later, however, the girls are far from
empowered…or friends. The once hot-to-trot Rennie is on the
other side of a New York Times bestselling first novel with
nothing but drivel to show for the follow-up. Instead, she's
teaching at some second-rate college and having scandalous affairs
with younger men who don't know any better. Amy is desperately
trying to keep up appearances by living a so-called squeaky-clean,
gingham clad life in the suburbs with her supposedly devoted
husband and pending baby, inaptly named Lucky. I guess the
combination of his affair and Lucky's death didn't quite mesh with
her presupposed equation. Craziest of all, Cherry has firmly
planted herself in a mental institution and spends most of her days
doing measly arts and crafts with her fellow nut-job patients. Not
exactly the embodiment of strength that she once was.
What happened to these three, you ask? What caused them to break
the bloodied bonds that were so fervidly formed many years prior?
Why, that dark, salacious secret, of course --- the night that
could never be forgotten and the split-second decision that would
change the course of their lives forever. It is this gnawing riddle
that keeps the pulse of THE BITCH POSSE going at top speed,
prompting even this most jaded reviewer to stay up until the wee
hours of the night just to find out what happened next.
All in all, Martha O'Connor's first book is a thrilling ride and a
searing look into the lives of three girls turned women as they
scratch, scrape, and slash their way through existence. Aside from
the author's excessive use of profanity and frequent scenes of
hard-hitting sexuality (pun intended), THE BITCH POSSE is one chick
novel you are sure not to forget.
Reviewed by Alexis Burling on December 22, 2010
The Bitch Posse