Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review*
Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem. Lady, recently separated from her husband, needs to hire a nanny to watch her toddler, Devin, while she (Lady) writes a memoir.
Pretty much immediately after meeting her, Lady hires a woman named “S” (formerly Esther).
S, as you might have guessed, has a few secrets. These aren’t secrets to the reader though, and we find them out pretty much immediately, once the novel switches gears and is told from S’s point-of-view.
Woman No. 17 is a reflection on toxic motherhood, a critique on modern/contemporary art, and a page-turner. It’s weird enough and its story is gripping enough that you want to find out more.
Let’s talk about Lady. Lady’s been commissioned to write a memoir about Seth, her teenage son. Seth doesn’t speak and no one really knows why. Seth also doesn’t remember his dad, Marco, who took off when Seth was a toddler.
In the intervening years, since her baby daddy left, Lady’s modeled for an art photographer, married, and had another child, Devin, who’s now two or three. Recently, she’s asked her husband, Karl, who’s an OK but kinda boring seeming guy, to leave the house. He does, but insists on meeting at PF Chang’s every week or so.
So, enter S, a recent college grad who’s crashing on her mom’s couch and is looking to start over after a poorly thought out “art” project up in Berkeley.
She lands the nanny job and gets to move into the cottage behind Lady’s house. And then things get weird.
Or maybe things were weird to begin with, considering that S has decided her newest “art’ project is to live as her mother lived when she was in her 20s. That’s the version of S that Lady meets, not the Esther who graduated from college in Berkeley. Trouble is, S’s mom is an alcoholic. Well that’s one of the troubles.
Lady’s got mother troubles of her own, and has cut off communications with her mom, a wealthy, but difficult woman. Lady’s also dealing with the question of whether or not she’s a good mom (she’s probably not, sorry, it had to be said).
There’s a lot going on in Woman No. 17. It’s heavy on the art critique and commentary without being too heavy handed about it. It’s got a lot to say about motherhood and being a woman and life imitating art, or maybe art imitating life. And through all that, it remains a really fun, enjoyable read.