Friday, January 20, 2017

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

    • Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
    • Release date May 9, 2017
      • I won an advance copy of this book through the website Library Thing so that I could review it. 
    • Other works by author: the novel California and the novella If You're Not Yet Like Me

    • The story is told in alternating sections by the two main characters:
      • Lady (a nickname from childhood, we learn early on), a woman with two sons and a marriage in the middle of a trial separation, is trying to write a book about her struggles raising the oldest son from a prior relationship, 18-year-old Seth. Her younger son, toddler Devin, is the child of her current marriage with Karl. She needs a nanny while she works on her book.
      • S. (short for Esther), recently graduated from UC Berkeley and getting over a breakup with her artist boyfriend, is the new nanny. She moves into the guesthouse.
    • Lady's story encompasses her present as well as her past as she recounts her life from before Seth's birth on. She has issues with her mother.
    • S. also has mother issues and embarks on an art project that involves imitating someone else --- guess who! --- while she's working as the nanny. 
    • The two women's lives encompass both sons, Lady's estranged husband Karl and Karl's twin sister Kit, Lady's mother, S.'s mother, S.'s father and stepmother, and Marco (Seth's father).

    • Since this is an advance copy of an uncorrected proof I won't criticize any editing errors. These encompass a handful of typos and a couple continuity errors. My favorite was this one:
      • Page 299: "...I put on a black skirt...and the pink top I knew Karl liked..."
      • Page 301: "I waited for him to see gray top already wrinkling at the waist."
    • This book took me some time to get into. I read the first fifty or so pages and then put it down for a couple of weeks. Since I needed to write a review for Library Thing I picked it up again and finally got more interested by page 80.
    • The problem for me was that I didn't really like S.'s chapters as much as I liked Lady's chapters.
      • Lady's life made sense. You understood why she made some of the choices she did even if they were bad choices.
      • S. seems to do the things she does in order to show the her ex-boyfriend that she can be an artist too. It seems like a thin excuse for what she does which includes trying to drink until she blacks out. Let's all take a moment to remember that she is working as a nanny for a toddler. Granted, she does make a point that all her drinking is done during her time off. But who wants to take care of a child with a hangover?
    • You don't find out what "woman no. 17" refers to until page 79. Once I knew S. was imitating someone else I thought maybe she would change personas often and that the 17th iteration would be the most pertinent to the story. Nope.
      • It's not a spoiler really but I'll be vague: It refers to a woman's photograph in an art show.
    • I liked the story overall but because I didn't care for S. I just couldn't love it. The deal-breaker with the character came when she made the following comment:
      • "A classic omelet looks like a pair of Meryl Streep's underwear and tastes like eating air."
      • Someone explain to me what Meryl's underwear has to do with omelets? Why not Sally Field's? Or Bette Davis'? Or...???
      • Lines like that take me right out of a book.
    • There's also a disturbing incident of animal cruelty so be forewarned.
    • Recommended for those who like the latest in contemporary fiction.
    • ★ ★ ★

1 comment:

  1. The "disturbing incident of animal cruelty" is beating and heating chicken embryos to make a Meryl Streep underwear omelet. Maybe she is just a name drop; a name that trumps them all.