Woman No. 17
New York Times bestselling author Edan Lepucki's Woman No. 17 is a "winning novel.”
— New York Times Book Review
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.
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.
Praise For Woman No. 17: A Novel…
* Boston Globe * Washington Post * San Francisco Chronicle * New York Observer * Huffington Post * The Millions * Nylon * Vulture * Bustle *
Praise for Woman No. 17:
“Woman No. 17 is propulsive and moving, and considers vital questions with empathy and sly intelligence…[A] winning novel.”
— New York Times Book Review
"A story packed with such wicked and wickedly funny confessions about a host of hallowed subjects...Woman No. 17 tastes like a juice box of suburban satire laced with Alfred Hitchcock. Lepucki’s witty lines arrive as dependably as afternoon playtime, but her reflection on motherhood and women’s friendships is deadly serious...The disclosures that Lepucki engineers in this smart novel are sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious, always irresistible."
— Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Lepucki’s exploration of personal relationships takes on an increasingly noirish tone: Much like Chekhov’s gun, a swimming pool introduced early in the book takes on the shadows of a floating body long before the reader realizes this might be a possibility.”
"Edan Lepucki's Woman No. 17 is part family melodrama, part twisty self-reflection... very funny."
"While Woman No. 17 does possess all the trappings of a frothy page-turner — stormy arguments, showy melodrama, and (oops!) an affair, there are some quiet, serious moments, too. It’s the intersection between the two that makes this read both scintillating and thought-provoking.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
"A sexy family drama featuring dual protagonists as well as sex, art, mothers and mutism."
— Los Angeles Daily News
"Following the success of her debut novel, California, author Edan Lepucki returns with a dark and clever tale about motherhood and the complexity of friendships."
“Woman No. 17 reads like a Hollywood Hills film noir... the dialogue is sharp, the fragrance of the wilting air palpable."
— Seattle Times
"With Woman No. 17, Lepucki has succeeded in revealing a simple truth: mothers are human—flawed and difficult and impossible to hold at arm’s length."
"Female friendships, artists, twisted secrets, motherhood, and the posh and drama-filled hills of Los Angeles — if that doesn't sound like a novel your mom will literally gobble up in a day or two, we give up. This risqué and mesmerizing read by New York Times bestselling author Edan Lepucki will make your mom race through the addictive pages of Woman No. 17 in no time (and we wouldn't be surprised if she rereads it again and again)."
"Tensions are expertly spun by Edan Lepucki through the heat of the end of summer in LA... Woman No. 17 starts and finishes in the here and now, and shows up the fragility of the facade of civilization that we all in the Western world, be it in American or Europe, like to think we hold up."
— Electric Literature
"Woman No. 17 offers not only a propulsive plot but also important reflections on artistic creation, the lingering effects of bad mothers on their adult children, and the thorny question of how friends and family relate to their loved ones with disabilities."
"Both fun to read and asks serious questions about identity, art and motherhood."
"Edan Lepucki’s second novel an exceptional offering... a sleek, perspective-shifting tale driven by the complexities of relationship dynamics, the notion of identity and the importance/absurdity of modern art and its impact... a taut tightrope walk of a novel."
— Maine Edge
“[A] Hollywood noir about the electric bonds between women… this one is a safe bet for beach season.”
– The Week
“Woman No. 17 is a novel about motherhood, an impossible game to win…The parallel stories of Lady and S speeding toward disaster keep the pages turning, but the primary pleasure of Woman No. 17 comes from Lepucki’s wit... This novel, coming on the heels of the dystopian California, suggests that Lepucki is an author with a diverse palate and talent to burn.”
“Lepucki’s brisk style and arresting characterizations make for a compelling portrait of womanhood in the present moment, right down to its intriguing integration of social media.”
“An acidly inquisitive domestic drama set in the Hollywood Hills and anchored to depthless questions of identity, family, and art... Lepucki’s arch and provocative tale of elaborate and privileged dysfunction poses sharp questions about inheritance, self-expression, and love.”
“Always enjoyable…this novel succeeds by staying light on its feet.”
“In Woman No. 17, Lepucki has crafted an intricate, gripping story of people behaving very badly. You will want to race to the end to see what happens, but don’t cheat yourself. This book deserves to be savored –gorgeously written, darkly comic, smart and thrilling.”
– CYNTHIA D’APRIX SWEENEY, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest"Woman No. 17 fizzes with references to contemporary culture and sparks with larger, timeless questions: Where is the line between performance and identity? What separates life from art? And can we ever escape the gravitational pull of our parents? Edan Lepucki shows herself to be a sharp-eyed chronicler of our modern world."
– CELESTE NG, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You
“Woman No. 17 is a provocative and timely meditation on art, authenticity and representation in a digital age. The increasingly gripping plot suggests the outcomes of a thriller, but at the crucial moment the novel swerves toward subtly profound truths about our capacity for self-sabotage and self-reinvention, the power of trauma to shape lives, and the inexorable gravity of family secrets. Lepucki’s smooth prose and deft handling of point of view reveal a writer fully in command.”
—MATTHEW THOMAS, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
“Taut as a thriller (with plenty of sex and secrets), Woman No. 17 raises big questions about identity, art, ethics, parenthood, and more. In Edan Lepucki's hands, the philosophical is transformed into a page turner; I don't know how she does it.”
–RUMAAN ALAM, author of Rich & Pretty
Selected Praise for California:
New York Times Bestseller
NPR best book of 2014
Los Angeles Times Bestseller
San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, 2014
"Rewarding....[One of] 30 books you NEED to read in 2014."
"Edan Lepucki's first novel comes steeped in Southern California literary tradition....One thinks of Steve Erickson or Cynthia Kadohata, or Carolyn See, whose 1987 novel Golden Days ends with the nuclear holocaust."
--David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"Lepucki's debut is an inventive take on the post-apocalyptic novel, about a couple who moves from an isolated existence in the wilderness to a guarded community that, they soon realize, harbors terrifying secrets and unforseen dangers."
--Laura Pearson, Time Out Chicago
"In her arresting debut novel, Edan Lepucki conjures a lush, intricate, deeply disturbing vision of the future, then masterfully exploits its dramatic possibilities."
--Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
"An ambitious, powerful, frightening first novel...California shows the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all the wrong things."
--Sarah Stone, San Francisco Chronicle
"Lepucki gives readers the most welcome surprise--in a dystopian novel, anyway--of flashes of humor. Many of her witty touches make reference to the familiar details of life in 2014, and what happens to them in the future."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"An expansive, full-bodied and masterful narrative of humans caught in the most extreme situations, with all of our virtues and failings on full display: courage, cowardice, trust, betrayal, honor and expedience. The final eighty pages of this book gripped me as much as any fictional denouement I've encountered in recent years....I firmly believe that Edan Lepucki is on the cusp of a long, strong career in American letters."
--Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
"Edan Lepucki is the very best kind of writer: simultaneously generous and precise. I am long been an admirer of her prose, but this book---this book, this massive, brilliant book---is a four alarm fire, the ambitious and rich introduction that a writer of her caliber deserves. I can't wait for the world to know what I have known for so many years, that Edan Lepucki is the real thing, and that we will all be bowing at her feet before long."
--Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers and Modern Lovers
"It's tempting to call this novel post-apocalyptic, but really, it's about an apocalypse in progress, an apocalypse that might already be happening, one that doesn't so much break life into before and after as unravel it bit by bit. Edan Lepucki tells her tale with preternatural clarity and total believability, in large part by focusing on the relationships -- between husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child -- that are, it turns out, apocalypse-proof. Post-nothing. California is timeless."
--Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
"California is a wonder: a big, gripping and inventive story built on quiet, precise human moments. Edan Lepucki's eerie near future is vividly and persuasively imagined. She is a fierce new presence in American fiction."
--Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia
"Breathtakingly original, fearless and inventive, pitch perfect in its portrayal of the intimacies and tiny betrayals of marriage, so utterly gripping it demands to be read in one sitting: Edan Lepucki's California is the novel you have been waiting for, the novel that perfectly captures the hopes and anxieties of contemporary America. This is a novel that resonates on every level, a novel that stays with you for a lifetime. Read it now."
--Joanna Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age and My Salinger Year
"California is carefully drawn and beautifully textured. It's a pleasure to watch love and family transform in this dark, strange forest."
--Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
Hogarth, 9781101904251, 320pp.
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Many of the characters in Woman No. 17 are artists: S has her performance project, Lady is (ostensibly) writing a memoir, Kit is a famous photographer, and Seth is making films and writing his popular Twitter account. What role does art play in each of these character’s lives? How might art help understand and clarify the self? How might it help avoid the self?
2. Do you find S and Lady unlikable? Why or why not? What does it mean for a character to be “likable” and should it matter in fiction?
3. S and Lady immediately connect and become friends–sort of. What draws these women together? What, beyond obvious secret-keeping, keeps these two women from enjoying an uncomplicated friendship? Is there anything in the relationship between S and Lady that reminds you of friendships you’ve had?
4. Lady’s relationship with Seth is fraught and full of resentment, but she also loves him deeply. What do you think of Lady’s feelings about Seth? About Devin? Do you think she’s a bad mother? Why or why not? Why do you think our culture is so interested in the notion of “good” versus “bad” mothers?
5. Setting is central to this novel–namely, Lady’s mansion in the Hollywood Hills. How does landscape influence these characters and their actions?
6. This novel is characterized as a piece of Noir fiction. What does that mean to you? Do you think this book fulfills those genre requirements?
7. As dark as Woman No. 17 gets, it’s also quite comic. How does humor function in this story, and for its characters?
8. Seth can’t speak and never has. What did you make of his disability and how it was portrayed by Lepucki? How did his mutism influence his character, the other characters, and the story overall?
9. Mothering is a big theme in the book, but so is being mothered. What do Lady and S learn from their mothers, and how have their upbringings damaged them? Do you think one can overcome familial dysfunction and trauma?
10. Who would you cast in a movie version of Woman No. 17?