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.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)
My Review: Woman No. 17 is my first book by Edan Lepucki. I had heard good things about her novel, California, and the premise of the book sounded intriguing as I enjoy dark and twisty thriller books. I do think I was expecting more thrills than I ultimately got. There was tension to be found and some dark humor to be sure and that kept me pulled into the story throughout the book.
Both main characters--Lady and S and their secrets immediately piqued my interest and although they are not particularly likeable, I was interested to see where the story took them and and what happened. Both Lady and S are quite self-absorbed and have allowed themselves to become obsessed by their pasts and with their mothers. With S, she is becoming the drunk persona of her mother through an art project focused on mothers, and with Lady, she is estranged from her mother due to past slights and what she sees as a big betrayal, as well as being challenged with the relationship she has with her nineteen-year-old son from a previous marriage and her toddler. Both women are seeking something and both are playing games with their own and others' lives to find their answers and resolution.
Lepucki definitely knows how to set a scene, she brings the Hollywood and SoCal scenes to life, capturing the culture and glamour with a mix of contemporary and noir feel and making scenes play out like a movie in the mind. The look at the art world is interesting, as is the exploration of the separation of art and life and the personas that are created when they are not held separately. If you need a character to root for, Woman No. 17 is probably not your book, but if you like a book with a noir-ish feel, set in a sultry Hollywood summer, that twists and turns and has you guessing about the outcomes, it does make for an intriguing beach book or one for a hot summer's day on the porch or lanai--icy cold cocktail or mocktail in hand. If you are a U.S.-based reader of this blog, there's a chance to win a copy of your own below.
Author Notes: Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel California as well as the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me. A contributing editor and staff writer at the Millions, she has also published fiction and nonfiction in McSweeney’s, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Cut, and elsewhere. She is the founder of Writing Workshops Los Angeles.
You can connect with Edan via her website or Twitter.
Food Inspiration: Although all sorts alcohol ruled the day (and night) in Woman No. 17 (including a French 75 cocktail of gin and champagne that almost got made) there was certainly food to be found. Food mentioned included poached eggs, sandwiches, Pizza Hut, P.F. Chang's dishes (lychee cocktails, Salt & Pepper Calamari, pot stickers, gluten-free 'beef-something-or-other'), and other restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), Yogurtland, Cheesecake Factory (oreo cheesecake), and Dominos, sushi, toasted and artisanal marshmallows, a bad Caesar salad with "tomatoes and not a single anchovy," sweet potato, cheeseburgers, coffee drinks, "milk-bloated Cheerios", watermelon, shabu-shabu, yaki-soba, apples and bananas, plantain chips, juice and fish sticks, shu mai from Trader Joe's, mussels, a burger and a side dish of Romanesco that turned out to be plain cauliflower, string cheese, Brazilian food, a classic omelet with chives and a salad with persimmon, sausage and egg sandwiches and a coke, pasta, eggplant, and a salad recipe with tarragon.
As I was away in Oregon for a week visiting family and was busy enough that I was either hanging out or crashing each night, reading took a bit of a back seat and I was finishing up the book on the plan ride home. That made the desire to cook something book-inspired when I got home very low. Had I been less travel weary I would have stopped at P.F. Chang's and grabbed one of the dishes mentioned in the book, but instead I found myself thinking about sushi--California rolls in particular, and a conversation with my nephew who is living in L.A. at the moment about his new favorite poke bowl place. If you don't know poke it is a salad/appetizer made up of cubes of raw fish--often ahi and a poke bowl is a rice bowl with poke and often veggies or other toppings. (Here are some examples of more recently made and posted poke: Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Black Sesame Seeds and poke bowls: California Roll Poke Bowl and Morimoto's Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl.)
Poke bowls are quite trendy outside of Hawaii now-especially in larger cities and areas like Los Angeles and New York, so while not entirely inspired by the book, it seemed a good fit.
It also gave me the ability to assemble my book-inspired dish rather than cook it and grab some store-bought poke and something green and use some frozen microwave brown rice I had at home. I knew I wanted California Roll Sushi--nice and spicy, and the salmon poke--creamy and mild looked good as did the tsukemono (pickled) cucumbers and an avocado. With the creamy salmon poke and avocado, I wanted another pickled item and knew I had a pack of Farmhouse Culture Garlic Dill Kraut I had picked up to try sitting in my fridge at home and with some toasted sesame seeds and nori strips at home, it made for a light dinner assembled and enjoyed in a matter of minutes. Although not mentioned it the book, I think it definitely fits that trendy, L.A. vibe and is the perfect dish for a warm day or evening.
If you want to make your own California Roll Poke and assemble a poke bowl, this is the recipe I use when I don't pick it up from the seafood department at my local grocery store.
California Roll Poke Bowl
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen--Inspired By/Adapted from Foodland Hawaii
(Serves 2 to 3)
Make rice and sriracha mayo ahead before forming bowls. I prefer my rice just slightly warm with the cold poke on top, but you can chill rice if you prefer or aren't immediately eating your bowls.
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used vegan Just Mayo--garlic flavor)
2 Tbsp Sriracha
1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
Combine all ingredients. Taste and check for seasoning. Add a touch of salt or soy sauce if desired. Chill for an hour or so before using.
California Roll Poke:
4 oz fresh sushi-grade ahi, cubed
4 oz imitation krab, sliced or shredded thinly (or real crab!)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into small cubes
1 small Japanese cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp green onions (green and white part) sliced finely
1 1/2 Tbsp furikake rice seasoning or finely chopped nori
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup Sriracha Mayo
Combine ahi, krab, avocado, cucumber, green onions, furikake seasoning, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl. Add Sriracha mayo and gently mix until blended.
1-cup cooked rice of choice (I used sushi rice)
1 cup of California Roll Poke and/or other poke combined
1 cup of green things ;-) (I used avocado, pickled cucumber and garlic dill sauerkraut)
Divide rice into serving bowls. Top with California Roll Poke and whatever greens and toppings you are using. Serve.
Notes/Results: This totally hit the spot--perfectly satisfying and a good combination of spicy, creamy, pickly, and umami goodness in a bowl--especially for being on the table in a matter of minutes. I doctored up my brown rice by mixing in the toasted sesame seeds and broken up strips of nori seaweed and because the California Roll poke is quite saucy and there are the pickled kraut and cucumbers to mix together as you eat the bowl, I didn't feel it needed any sauce, although you certainly could add some. Bonus, there will be enough left over for another bowl today. I will happily make it again.
I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Woman No.17" was provided to me by the publisher, and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of Woman No.17 to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite food or the dish you want to eat when you come home from a trip.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Edan Lepucki (@EdanL), and/or Publisher Hogarth (@HogarthBooks) on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author or publisher on Twitter.)
Deadline for entry is Tuesday, May 30th.
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