Archive | 10:48 AM

Book Review: These Women by Ivy Pochoda (3/5)

9 Jul

This was a bit of a last-minute book club pick. With COVID, we’ve been limited to books that are available on a platform that allows multiple downloads from different users at the same time. A lot of our selections were tossed into the air and this one landed. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t a book I really enjoyed either. I’m happily neutral on this one.

Cover image via Amazon

These Women by Ivy Pochoda

Summary from Amazon:

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner … These women in the club … These women who won’t stop asking questions … These women who got what they deserved …

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

I liked the storytelling of this novel and the topics it addressed, but it missed with me overall. It’s hard to pinpoint what didn’t jive for me, but it was a bit off. I liked the multiple points of view. I liked the women the book focused on. I liked the setting and the mystery. But it just wasn’t what I enjoyed.

Juliana and Marella seemed the most real to me. Maybe because I’m closer in age and life to them, but they resonated with me more. Dorian was too bitter to enjoy, Essie seemed to have more problems than we were able to explore in her section, and Anneke was too hard to understand. I liked Juliana. I wanted better things for her and I wanted to believe her that things were going to get better when she wanted them to. Marella was trying to find her own voice and found that she couldn’t; it was always going to be tainted with someone else’s words but that didn’t make it less impactful. Their troubles seemed real to me and their struggle spoke to me more than the others did.

Juliana was my favorite character. The life she had made for good fiction, even if it wasn’t pretty. She was interesting and the people she was around were people you wanted to hear more about and see into their lives. She was interesting even if she wasn’t good. She was the one you cheered for in the book.

Marella was easy to relate to in some ways. Her mother wanted what was best for her and went through a lot of grief to get it. Marella rebelled against this in her way and that was relatable. Parents usually do what they think is best for their children even if children don’t see it that way.

Ivy Pochoda
Image via Amazon

I sound like a broken record, but Juliana’s section was my favorite of the book. I liked how she showed the beautiful side of a life that’s often overlooked and frowned at. She saw the beauty in her friends in a different way than the men who paid them did. Her section really spoke to how woman can be overlooked and seen as property in our society. While some women profit from this, it’s not safe. Our society sees sex workers as at fault for any violence against them because of their line of work instead of seeing the perpetrators as vile men. It’s ‘these women’ who keep doing things to get themselves killed. Feelia’s story emphasizes how little faith is put in this group of women.

I didn’t like Anneke’s section. It wasn’t just because the mystery was almost immediately given away, but I felt Anneke was very unlikeable. From the first time we meet her, in Dorian’s narration, she’s hostile and rude. It never gets better and by the time she gets a voice, the reader is set against her. Nothing she did helped change my perception of her and I wanted the book to end so I didn’t have to listen to her excuses any longer. I was sick of her very quickly.

The audiobook was dually narrated by Bahni Turpin and Frankie Corzo. Corzo read the majority of the book and I enjoyed her narration. Nothing in it stuck out too much to me. What did stand out a lot was Turpin’s reading. She did the chapters with Feelia’s voice and those stood out a lot. They were written in a very different style, just Feelia’s voice without any other characters or descriptions. The way Turpin read them was amazing, full of passion and anger that the character felt to her bones. I looked forward to these sections because of Turpin.

This book discusses sexism and racism and seemed very appropriate to read in 2020. Feelia and Juliana feel society overlooks them not just for their skin color, but their gender as well. They have problems they can’t take to the police because the police won’t listen. When Essie does listen, Feelia is shocked and reasons it’s because she’s a Latina woman; white men had ignored her for years. It helped highlight privilege without that being the main theme. Maybe I was reading it that way because of the #BLM movement, but I think the message was purposeful.

Writer’s Takeaway: The multiple points of view were very well done. I learned more about the crimes with each person’s voice added to the collage and it came down to the end when I figured out who was responsible. I think it was revealed in a very natural way and hearing from all of the women in this book helped draw that picture.

An enjoyable read (very well narrated) that somehow missed for me. Three out of Five Stars

Until next time, write on.

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