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Chicago Tribune

'Dirty Girls Social Club' Is Half-Baked

BY SANDY BAUERS, Knight Ridder/Tribune News

May 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved. 

As usual, the abridgment will probably take the blame.

If Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's much-hyped first novel comes across as too shallow, too cute and too unlikely with its saccharine ending, maybe it's just that she never got the space to develop things fully.

Supposedly, there was a bidding war for "The Dirty Girls Social Club," a novel about six Latina several years out of college, trying to sort out their careers and love lives.

Apparently, the movie rights have been optioned. But when it came to the audio version, the folks at Audio Renaissance evidently didn't believe in it enough to give listeners the full version.

Instead, they axed it by about half, winding up with a five-hour version on either CD ($30) or cassette ($24.95). That was undoubtedly to keep the price at or close to that of the hardback, which also is $24.95.

In the process, however, the characters wound up being too cardboard-ey.

Valdes-Rodriguez did a nice job introducing them as they walk into a restaurant for one of their get-togethers.

Rebecca is the skinny, tense magazine editor. Sara is the full-time mom whose husband beats her. Amber is the politicized musician who's about to make it big. Lauren is the newspaper columnist forced to fit a stereotypical Latina role for an editor who thinks Puerto Rico is a foreign country. Elizabeth is the popular television host. Usnavys is a materialistic executive.

They all go through difficult relationships and, one way or another, come out on the other side better, more successful.

They all, more or less, take turns with the narrative, but most of the time I had trouble telling them apart.

Not that I didn't enjoy hanging out with them for five hours. They were kind of fun. But they didn't challenge me. They didn't amaze me or teach me anything about life.

Valdes-Rodriguez reads the novel herself, and she keeps things lively with a few good attitudes and accents.

But overall, I began to suspect the problem wasn't the abridgment at all. I began to think Valdes-Rodriguez is just another young-ish author with little more than a good book title and a marketable resume, someone who can whip out a good sentence but doesn't feel the need to work out on a deeper level.

She's trying so hard to be witty and with-it, and alas she winds up being merely glib.

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