Reviews > Published on May 17th, 2017

Bookshots: "Woman No. 17" by Edan Lepucki

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Woman No. 17

Who wrote it?

Edan Lepucki, author of Stephen Colbert favorite, California.

Plot in a box:

From page one I was invested in Lepucki's flawed characters, even though I would probably hate them in real life.

Estranged lady-writer Lady Daniels hires a nanny so she can finish her book. Enter S, a young artist who is not what she seems.

Invent a new title for this book:

Performance Artist for Hire

Read this if you like(d):

Probably California, although I haven't read it. Also, California.

Meet the book’s lead(s):

Lady Daniels: A mother and writer estranged from her husband.

Seth: Lady's mute teenage son.

Esther/S: The young artist hired to help watch Lady's toddler, Devin (who doesn't warrant being considered a lead for our purposes).

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Lady: Brit Marling (Another Earth, The OA) in about 5 years.

Seth: Chandler Riggs (CORAL!), of Walking Dead fame. He can sulk, and we wouldn't have to hear him talk.

Esther/S: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Edge of Seventeen), who already has experience starring in films with the number 17 in the title.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

I dallied with the romantic notion of moving to California when I was a young rock n' roller, but after visiting enough times I got over that.

What was your favorite sentence?

Sure, Seth had left her womb and never returned, but he was the one who had to do the leaving.

The Verdict:

Woman No. 17 was first brought to my attention by Richard Thomas, in his 10 Highly Anticipated Books for 2017 column. In it, he referenced both Steve Erickson and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. as possible touchstones. The ad copy billed it as a sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles. I was sold.

Well, I didn't find Woman No. 17 to be particularly noirish, at least not in the traditional sense, and ideas of identity aside, it certainly wasn't very Lynchian. But that's okay, because I still really liked it. From page one I was invested in Lepucki's flawed characters, even though I would probably hate them in real life. You could say I was absorbed in their self-absorption.

Look, I get it. Publishers don't consider motherhood or female friendships "sexy," and books ain't gonna sell themselves. But they should have trusted in the quality of the storytelling here. Fortunately that quality will be apparent to anyone who gives the book a chance.

Get Woman No. 17 at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at and

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