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. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.
From the very first page of Woman No. 17, I was captivated by each narrative voice: first, we meet “Lady” Daniels, mother, writer, and “separated” wife of Karl, trying to work out her inner angst.

Then we have “S” Fowler, young artist/nanny who has moved into the guesthouse after Lady hires her. There is definitely something off about S and her mysterious artistic project. Meanwhile, she cares for toddler Devin, and seemingly does a good job.

Seth, the mute eldest son, a college student, seems to be playing some mind games, both with his mother and with S.

Seth communicates with both his mother and S via Twitter, and sometimes he plays out vengeful games with this method. His tweets do offer a peek into his perspective.

Themes of motherhood, friendship, and art fill the pages with interesting scenes, dialogue, and other characters, like Marco, Seth’s father, who left when he was a baby and with whom Lady has recently reconnected; and Kit Daniels, photographer, who imagines herself to be the “last word” in all things artistic. I could not stand her.

I loved the LA setting, with its youth-dominated culture, fascination with fantasy vs. reality, and the endless freeway systems.

My feelings for Lady and S were mixed, and by the time we finally realize what each is trying to communicate with one another and with others, the story had reached a crescendo pitch. Secrets come crashing down around us, and we are left in the rubble…watching each of them try to move on. A brilliantly written 5 star read.


3 thoughts on “REVIEW: WOMAN NO. 17, BY EDAN LEPUCKI


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