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Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
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Woman No. 17

by Edan Lepucki

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Lady recently asked for a trial separation from her husband, Karl, and is living with her two sons, Seth and Devin. Seth is an 18-year-old selective mute and Devin is a very talkative toddler. Lady has accepted a contract to write a book about her experiences with Seth and has hired S Fowler to watch him while she writes. S is actually Esther Shapiro, an aspiring artist that had an art project that turned out badly. She has decided to reinvent herself in the image of her alcoholic mom in order to begin a new art project. Soon, all the lies of all the different characters begin to have an effect on their relationships.



I had mixed feelings about Woman No. 17. Lepucki's writing style is beyond compare and it was a very easy read. The story and the characters didn't do much for me, though. I actually didn't like any of the characters. Well, maybe with the exception of Devin but he is a toddler so how can I not? I found Seth to be about as manipulative as S was and Lady came across as selfish and pampered. I want to give a full disclaimer at this moment and say that I am not a huge fan of performance or experimental art. Maybe I just don't get it but it seems pretentious to me. S and Seth's performance art, especially, seemed to me to be something that is only liked by those in the upper crust of society, a people who are often not informed about what the lives of the rest of society are like. I have a slight inkling that even they don't get it. I could see the ending from a mile away. The whole time that I was reading the book, I kept thinking to myself, "Well, this can't possibly turn out well." I think this book would appeal to some readers but it just didn't appeal to me. I loved Lepucki's writing style and I would like to read her future work just for that reason but the story did not catch my attention. ( )
  OreoandLucy | Jun 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I find this to be a most difficult book to review. On one hand, author Edan Lepucki 's novel started out well, however the plot-line quickly became tedious and repetitious. I am not the type of reader who must always like a novel's characters. But in Woman No. 17, the primary players were so self-absorbed and shallow, I found them to be extremely annoying.

Yet on a positive note, Lepucki's descriptive language of the wealthy Hollywood Hills area, was well done and quite interesting. However, this alone is not enough for me to recommend this book. I do not mind having to work through a book, but only when I find the end results to be worth my time. As I stated in the above tag-line, I had looked forward to reading this book, and had really wanted to like it. Sadly, this was not the case. ( )
  AnaElise | Jun 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki is a 2017 Hogarth publication.

Offbeat mixture of art and the complexities of motherhood.

Set in the Hollywood Hills, Lady Daniels is working on a book about her son, Seth, a selective mute, who is now in his late teens.

Lady also has a toddler with her second husband, from whom she is now separated. She needs a nanny so she can concentrate on her writing, so with hardly a second thought, she hires Esther, whom she refers to as ‘S’.

Along the way, we learn about Seth’s father, Lady’s mother, her ex, Marco, her current husband, Karl, and his sister, Kit. We also learn that Esther is acting out a unique art form that involves immolating her mother.

But, the story’s main focus is on the women, ‘S’ and Lady, and their relationship with each other, with Seth, and with their own mothers.

First of all, this book was a little strange, and not at all what I was expecting. But, I couldn’t help but pick up on the underlying ode to motherhood, the way we view our own mothers, the kind of mother’s we become and the consequences of our choices. But, it is also about friendship, and the odd connection Lady and 'S' have with one another.

For Lady, the fact that Seth does not speak, has her over compensating in a way that freezes out her youngest son. Guilt, an unhealthy fixation on her ex, mingled with regret, and an obsessive need to micro-manage and protect, Seth makes her vulnerable to ‘S’, a young woman she becomes very close to.

By comparison, ‘S’ is trying to capture the essence of her own mother, by using her as a prop, so to speak for her artistic experiment. She, too, is drawn into a friendship with Lady, but is also very aware of Seth.

It’s really a story with many complexities, and I suppose can be interpreted in various ways. It is labeled as a psychological thriller, but you know, I'm not so sure that fits. It does certainly have its moments of suspense and carries a dark atmosphere, but it's not like any PT, I've ever read.

Sometimes, when I read a book like this one, I worry about missing something symbolic or that the allegory is sailing right over my head. I don’t know if there is some big message the author wished for readers to grasp, or if I am totally missing the point.

For example, the artistry mixed into the story which was so unusual. Perhaps the ‘Woman No. 17’ photo was symbolic, in that it froze Lady into a set period of time, a representation of her, she has come to resent, regret, and wishes to move away from?? .... Or not??

There is a surprising twist in the end, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. But, I did see character growth, and the very last bit of the book was a little cheeky, which was a fitting conclusion.

This book was a challenge for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gave me something to puzzle over, and gave my brain a little workout, plus I appreciated the imagination and originality of it, as well as the dark humor sprinkled in here and there, which made it a nice change of pace, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, at times.

So, overall, this one gets a 3.5 rating.

*librarything early review ( )
  gpangel | Jun 11, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am not quite sure what to say about Lepucki's Woman No. 17. I was intrigued and wanted to keep reading, but by the end I realized there really wasnt much story there. The main characters were annoying, but I wanted more of the ancillary characters. It is a story of women and mothers bit I felt like there could have been more. I am giving 3 stars because I wanted to finish but not more because I was ultimately disappointed. ( )
  chris227 | Jun 9, 2017 |
Edan Lepucki's an interesting writer. Her first effort, California, was a thought-provoking novel of a dystopian future that was well-crafted and imaginative. Woman #17 is quite different, but likewise addresses important themes. I can't say either of them is at the top of my 'most upbeat novels' list, but if you enjoy strong writing and stories that are offbeat, Edan Lepucki can be one of your 'go-to' authors.

The plot of Woman #17 is difficult to describe. A recently separated woman living with her 2 children by different fathers in an affluent part of LA decides she needs some help around the house. She's a writer-who-doesn't-write and her children, one of whom is a toddler and the other a mute 18 year old, need more supervision than she can find it in herself to provide in her busy non-writing, non-working life. The live-in (in a detached building behind the main abode) nanny she hires is an arty recent college grad with lots of issues herself. To state the plot broadly, the nanny decides to conduct a clandestine art project while 'laboring' for the family.

Woman #17 is all about relationships, identity, class, and a whole bunch of first-world problems. The narration bounces back and forth between the 'woman of the house' and 'the nanny'. Neither is what I'd consider to be a sympathetic character, though I have to admit I rooted for 'the nanny' a bit more, at least until her 'project' got a bit out of hand. Both main characters had severe daddy issues, mommy issues, man issues, and general maturity issues which was great, since all those issues drove the majority of the action. The children, especially the mute 18 year old, had significant roles as well and, it seemed to me, were lucky to survive relatively intact.

Woman #17 was a fine 2nd novel by an author who I've really enjoyed discovering. Her books have outstandingly imaginative plots along with great writing and I look forward to more from her! ( )
1 vote gmmartz | Jun 5, 2017 |
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High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She's going to need a hand with her young son if she's ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guesthouse out back, care for Lady's young toddler son and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage one. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.'s connection to Lady's older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to each other as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear.
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