Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Book Review: Woman No. 17
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended / mondo mommy issues
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Pheobe Strole
Publisher: Random House Audio
Quite the departure from her debut novel CALIFORNIA, a dystopian future that delved into the lives of huband and wife doing everything they can to survive, Edan dissects the intersecting lives of two women with mondo mommy issues in WOMAN NO.17.
Lady is the well-to-do mother of two with MAJOR relationship issues. There's the enignmatic and mute-by-choice eighteen year old Seth, son of the mysterious Marco who left Seth and Lady high and dry before his first birthday, and Devin, her not-yet-three year old chatterbox, son of soon-to-be-ex-husband Karl (holy crap with the em-dashes, right?!).
As we are introduced to Lady, we discover that she is contracted to write a book about her experience raising a child with selective mutism. Having pushed Karl out of the house and onto his sister's couch, Lady is feeling the pressures of overcoming her writer's block while minding her two children and places an ad for a live-in nanny.
Enter "S.". After having her heart broken by her artsy-fartsy boyfriend and now suffering from a complete loss of what to do with herself, Esther Shapiro, a twenty-something performance artist, has decided to become her mother. Like, literally. She will need to look and act like her mother did when she was her age and in order to fully become Katherine, S. answers Lady's ad and gets hired on as a full-time nanny, just like her mom had once done.
S. lands the job and moves into Lady's cottage. The women start bonding immediately - Lady clueless to S.'s little game, and S. busy balancing her relationships with Lady, Devin, Lady's hubby Karl, and her ever growing attracting towards the moody, just-this-side-of-legal, Seth. This should be fun, right? And oh boy is it ever!
The drama slowly unfolds before us in the rotating POV's of Esther and Lady. While the immediate connecting thread is the ladies horrendous relationships with their mothers, it's clear neither woman is capable of maintaining or nurturing relationships of any kind with any one. I'm pretty sure we've known people who clam up or freak out at the first sign of intimacy, or people who are extra clingy and super paraniod about you not liking them as much as they like you, even in platonic friendships. Those are not new concepts. But Edan takes things to a whole other level, and not just between Esther and Lady. Oh no! There's a shitload of messed up mind gaming going on in these pages, between EVERYONE!
The feel and mood of WOMAN NO. 17 is so different from CALIFORNIA that it's difficult to recognize them as being penned by the same author. Both novels are effectively written and showcase what human beings are capable of when they are able to move and breathe freely, within especially constricted environments. But it's the angles from which Edan examines her characters that distances each novel from itself.
Somewhat predictable but always clever and witty, WOMAN NO. 17 is the perfect read for those who enjoy watching people fucking with, and being fucked with by, the people they should be able to count on most.