Woman No. 17 Hitting the Thematic Checklist

Sitting in a tire shop is not my ideal Sunday morning; I wasn’t the only patron to bring a book, and though I surreptitiously tried to suss out what the other ladies were reading without looking like a creeper, I only ended up looking like a creeper.

While the tech replaced my tire, I was able to finish Woman No. 17 by Edan Lapucki. The blurb on the cover describes the novel as “sinister and sexy” (which is weirdly also my Tinder profile.) And like my Tinder profile, it doesn’t really live up to the hype.


The story presents the dual viewpoints of a well-off woman and her nanny, the women a generation apart, both preoccupied with their roles in the world as well as their mothers. In addition to the classic “my mother was a psycho omg am i my mother” conundrum, there is also an artsy slant that questions identities and whether we can put them on and take them off like clothes and at what point our assumed identities become part of us (see: Masks All the Way Down.)

There are so many Liberal Arts Intro Class themes that the novel tries to explore, the reader is in danger of a slipped disk from all the whiplash.

IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE MENTIONED THEMES: the role of art in the world. A classic “am I an artist?” crisis.

IN ADDITION: a nonverbal son and how we treat the disabled as less than.

IN ADDITION: Approximately eight million flawed or straight up sociopathic woman. Cue Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train comparisons.

IN ADDITION: Representation of the female body on film as exploitative or powerful, dependent on the lens. Cue a really terrible art project that serves to upend the male gaze with dick pics. Subversive!

IN ADDITION: Poverty porn.

The story is compelling, the train wreck of these woman’s lives compulsively readable as they make poor choice after disastrous decision. If the novel hadn’t tried to capture so many different liberal arts elective course titles, the whole story would have felt more unified and might have led to a more satisfying ending.

*WOMEN NOS. 1-16

  • One pertinent lesson of this novel is to not let your mom use twitter. There’s actually a wide array of social media usage in this novel, including Snapchat and Craigslist. Regardless of the app, the characters in this novel manage to create disaster with every post and tweet and email they send into the world.
  • Just add booze? In my blog about Dead in the Water I complained about the lazy character shortcut of making a character a pedophile in order to telegraph to the reader just how evil the character is. Equally annoying is making a woman a boozer to depict how broken she is. Just add booze! Insta-flaw! I know this was used prominently (and as a plot propellant) in The Girl on the Train. Has it become more prevalent, or am I just noticing it more?


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