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Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Literary fiction

Woman No. 17

by Edan Lepucki

Quick take

Lepucki anchors this wild ride with keen observations and sympathy for her unmoored creations'”it’s the kind of book you’ll find yourself underlining.

Why I love it

Kim Hubbard
People Magazine

Some books pull you in from the very first sentence; this one had me at the dedication. It reads: 'œTo my mother, who always says, 'If you’re bored, read a book.’' My mother said that too! (She also said, 'œI’ve never been bored in my life,' which was less helpful. So blamey! Like her head was a wonderland and mine must be empty inside!)

Sorry. Where was I?

Mother issues. We all have them. This wickedly entertaining novel showcases some especially dysfunctional examples of that first, most primal bond.

Woman No. 17 is the story of two women, each a bit deranged from mama drama, who come together and form a most unlikely (and destructive) friendship over the course of a scorching summer in the Hollywood Hills.

Lady Daniels is no longer speaking to her neglectful mother, even as Lady is busy raising a toddler and looking after her older son Seth, now 18, who mysteriously (and guilt-inducingly) doesn’t speak at all. Lady’s an impulsive woman: after kicking out her devoted second husband, she advertises for a nanny and'”without so much as asking for a reference'”hires the first young woman who comes to the door.

As it turns out, Lady’s new hire'”'œS' (short for Esther)'”may not be the most dependable employee. Unbeknownst to Lady, S is working through feelings about her own tough mother by adopting her characteristics: no makeup, blunt talk, binge-drinking and all. It’s performance art at its weirdest, and the chapters of Woman No 17 narrated by S are filled with both wonder and foreboding.

Both deliciously complicated women attempt to repair the damage of their upbringings even as their lives spiral further and further out of control. Lepucki anchors Lady and S’s wild ride with keen observations and sympathy for her unmoored creations'”their humanity shines through even in their most unhinged moments. Astute, nuanced, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Woman No. 17 is the kind of book you’ll find yourself underlining, and it will stay with you long after you put it down.

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A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the bestselling author of _California_.

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she's going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she's ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady's toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S's connection to Lady's older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady's privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family...

Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

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Member thoughts

All (1462)
All (1462)
Love (404)
Like (836)
Dislike (222)
1547 ratings
  • 26% Love
  • 54% Like
  • 14% Dislike
  • Williamsport, PA

    The synopsis of this book didn't give much info, and after reading it I don't think I could give a better synopsis. Two train wrecked females lives intersect and an even weirder story happens. GREAT!!

  • Chicago, IL

    Ironic that I read this on Mother's Day. Very perceptive treatment of mother/daughter/child relationships. There were so many lines that I read and then reread because they were so true. Great read!

  • Tucson, AZ

    This, for me, was one of those books that you can't walk away from or put down. Loved the characters and their crazy lives/nuanced situations. This was an extremely enjoyable (if sometimes dark) read.

  • Bremerton, WA

    As the perspectives jumped back and forth I felt myself changing sides as well; both Lady and S my bestie. I fell in love with this book and with every character in it...except Kit, Kit was the worst.

  • Newport News, VA

    Multiple complicated relationships, but none are underdeveloped. Messy characters you feel like you know personally. Well written with a satisfying conclusion, one of the best from my time with BOTM.

  • Jefferson , PA

    Once I got about half way through this book, I finished the second half in less than a day. Total page turner once you get to know all of the characters. My only complaint would be the "blah" ending.

  • North White Plains , NY

    Well written & comical read battling the questions: What makes a good mother? Do mothers have favorites? Do daughters become their mothers? Does silence trump words? Beautiful similes & descriptions.

  • East Middlebury, VT

    This book was rich and luxurious to read. It transports you to Los Angeles and into the minds of the complex characters Lady and S. 17 highlights issues such as motherhood, first loves, desire, etc.

  • Wyandotte, MI

    Witty and unashamedly honest; nestled somewhere between social experiment and couples therapy. Instantly relatable characters whose distinctly female narratives conflict, yet seamlessly intertwine.

  • Akron, OH

    I loved this real, raw book. I adore a book that makes me feel emotional about every character as this book did. I always give my books away after I read them, even those I really liked. Keeping it!

  • Hatton, ND

    I was so expecting this to be a thriller, but it turned out to be something totally different, and I actually really liked it! I flew through this book because I wanted to know what happened next!

  • Clinton, IA

    I loved this book! S and Lady were so infuriating at points, I'd hoped if I'd shake my book hard enough they'd come back to reality. This books make you "lighten up" and not sweat the small stuff!

  • Santa Monica, CA

    One again an incredible BOTM pick. Edan Lepuckis modern take on motherhood is really something, I got so close to every character and felt like I lost an incredible group of friends when it ended!

  • Litchfield Park, AZ

    I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed all the secrets and the lies that a young women was keeping, and a mother was keeping. How similar they were and how unalike they were. It was a page-turner.

  • Steilacoom, WA

    All I can say is that I loved to hate the two central characters of this novel. Lepucki is a lovely writer, but never have a felt more disgusted/enthralled with such self-serving "protagonists."

  • Nelsonville, OH

    Reading through my gut reaction was to love S's character, but as I was reading I feel like I had so many changes in emotion towards her. I love flawed characters, how they do or don't evolve...

  • East Lansing, MI

    This was not a typical read for me. While it had the elements of a type of thriller, it was much more than that. It was thought-provoking, raw, and different from anything else I've read before.

  • Johnson City, TN

    I inhaled this book in a weekend. I couldn't hardly stand to put it down. I was enthralled with the twisted characters and their inevitably complicated relationships. What an incredible novel!

  • Coeur d Alene, ID

    The book was raw with emotion and its characters were gripping. They were also completely hysterical and fucked up. Lepucki's use of humor to delve into the depths of emotion held my attention.

  • Pacifica, CA

    I finished it in two days- it was so captivating that I didn't want to stop reading. I love how there were so many little stories tied all together and I couldn't wait to see how things ended.

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