Motherhood doesn’t turn women into saints; if anything, it exposes our faults, raising the stakes when we screw up. In real life, that’s enough to give you an anxiety attack. In fiction, it’s riveting — especially in the hands of Edan Lepucki, whose second novel, Woman No. 17, explores the cracks in two women’s facades.
Quick story summary:
Lady Daniels is the mother of two sons: Seth, a nonverbal teenager, and Devin, a precocious toddler, both of whom are living with her in the immediate aftermath of her separation from her husband. On a deadline to finish a memoir about motherhood, Lady hires a sitter to keep an eye on her younger son during the sizzling heat of the Los Angeles summer. The sitter — a young artist named Esther who has decided to go by “S” — moves in and soon becomes a confidante and (maybe?) friend to Lady. That’s when old secrets emerge, new secrets are forged, and relationships among everyone in the house begin to twist and turn in dark, and darkly funny, ways. Each woman is relying on the other to help hold her life together, but no one is telling the full truth, which sets them on suspenseful course toward . . . well, you’ll see when you read it.
Making the whole thing a little more tense is the way the story unfolds in alternating perspectives: from Lady’s voice to S’s, back and forth, allowing us to glimpse even more similarities than the women see in each other. (Upon first meeting S, Lady thinks: “I remembered myself at that age . . . I’d been beautiful. The past tense was like a shove to the chest.”) Questions of identity simmer from the first page to the last: Are you the face you see in the mirror now or the one you see in an old photograph? Can you be any persona you invent if you commit to it? Are you your mother? Are you your Twitter handle? Are you what others judge you to be?
If you enjoyed Lepucki’s last book, the New York Times-bestselling California, you’ll love Woman No. 17 for how it takes some of the same ingredients — ambivalence toward the bonds of marriage and parenthood, ominous undertones, unexpected humor — and mixes them up into something unique. We can’t wait for you to experience this mesmerizing novel, which is published TODAY. And we hope you’ll join us when Lepucki comes to Nashville!
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