The Girls Club is the coming-of-age story of a young, white, working-class woman. Set in the 1970s, the story revolves around Cora Rose as she copes with her emerging sexuality, an illness her sisters refer to as "the dreaded bowel disease," and the conflicts created by the growing disparity between her desires and her Catholic upbringing.
Part one deals with the three sisters' adolescent relationship to each other and their Catholic working-class world. Cora Rose's distress at being caught in an embrace with her best friend Stella leads her to sleep with the first boy who shows interest. She is married with a child at age eighteen.
Part two shows how the sisters help and hinder each other in their struggles to take control and responsibility over their lives.
Part three reveals Cora Rose's physical challenges, including an ostomy, that further complicate her feelings about her sexuality and increase her need for her sisters' support. She becomes involved with a woman she meets at a bar called The Girls Club. Marie and Renee play out their own struggles as Cora Rose leaves her husband, fights to keep her child, and overcomes religious and social prejudices that threaten her personal integrity.
Sally Bellerose was awarded a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts based on an excerpt from this book. The manuscript was a finalist for the James Jones Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, and the Bellwether Endowment. Sally Bellerose lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
In her debut novel, Bellerose deftly tells the story of Cora Rose, Marie, and Renee LaBarre, a trio of working-class sisters in small-town Massachusetts who are best friends, mortal enemies, and forever loyal to each other. Told from youngest sister Cora Rose's perspective, the story begins in the late 1960s and wends through the 70s as the sisters each graduate from high school and come to terms with a number of difficult issues ranging from teen pregnancy to parenting to health issues to coming to terms with their sexuality, all liberally seasoned with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt. Throughout, the sisters as well as their boyfriends, husbands, and girlfriends muddle through with hope and love. Bellerose's sympathetic characters are all the more appealing and realistic for their lack of perfection. No matter what one's view of sexuality, the portrayal of Cora Rose, a lesbian struggling to deny her realities to everyone including herself, is riveting and at times heartbreaking. A fast-paced, well-written tale with characters who will linger in the reader's memory long after the final page is turned.