Book Club Reflection: These Women by Ivy Pochoda

27 Jul

I’m back! I took a week off due to some craziness in life, but it’s given me a chance to read more and get excited about blogging again. I’m glad to be with you all again.

Our book club had another successful Zoom meeting to talk about our latest book, These Women by Ivy Pochoda. We learned a lot about the author that I wouldn’t have guessed. Her other novels are more gritty crime novels, which wasn’t too much of a surprise. I was a bit surprised to hear she’d been a collegiate squash player and very successful. She was also working with Kobe Bryant before his death on a YA series called Epoca. She uses the pseudonym Ivy Claire for these books. The first was released in November 2019.

Pochoda lives in LA and has been there since 2009 but she wasn’t raised there. Her portrayal of the city felt very real to us like she’s been there even longer. A lot of the description reminded us of Detroit; a city run down and trying to revive itself but having a hard time of it.

Pochoda’s women are empowered and have the ability to change their futures and the outcomes of what they do. We never get inside the male killer’s head. He’s not the focus of the stories. One reader figured out the killer quickly since he was the only man in the book and she figured it had to be a man. It seems obvious to me now, but I didn’t see that at the time. The time jumps threw off a few readers who were reading digitally or on audio for the first time and weren’t used to the new formats.

It was very timely of this book to include BLM protests. You have to think Pochoda knew to include these before they became front-page news. She was tuned in to what was happening and put them in her book, making it feel like she could tell the future. The book felt less escapist than crime novels normally do because it felt so real and connected to the headlines we’re reading now.

Pochoda created some very memorable characters. Feelia’s section was raw and had a lot of course language in it. Those of us who listened to it enjoyed it more. Her language was coarse, but she was describing some beautiful things. Most of us liked Essie. She had some great quirks, like her gum chewing. We’d love to see her as the detective in more books. Her backstory felt a little rushed so more books would give us more into her character. We wanted to know more about the car accident since it didn’t seem fleshed out enough. We also wanted to know more about her former partner, Debbie. That seemed like a good story, too. All of the narrators ere the victims of something; Dorian of her murdered daughter, Jujubee of murder, Marella of a broken home life, Anneke of a bad marriage. Essie needed to be the victim of something, so maybe that misunderstanding is what made her compelling in this book.

Most of us felt Dorian was the least compelling of the narrators. It didn’t help that she started the story. We weren’t sure why we were hearing her story because it didn’t seem to connect to the larger narrative until much further into the story. She might have been more sympathetic if she’d been second or third. We started to care more about the characters as the chapters went on. They became deeper. Juliana is a dancer, but she wants to be an artist like Morella. Morella is an artist, but she’s having an identity crisis and ends up using someone else’s photos in her show. A few said they cared about Morella less at the end of her section. I think she lost the intrigue she had when she was nude and covered in blue paint.

Women are viewed as sexual beings in Western culture and those in power are disrespected and brought low so they can be objectified and seen as sexual beings. They’re not listened to; Dorian keeps the dead birds to show people so she can be believed. Feelia reports her stalker for years without anyone taking her seriously. Anneke, unfortunately, buys into this view of women as sexual beings. She says that the women are at fault for their deaths, causing the killer to want them and kill them. She blames them for what happens.

We’ve got at least one more virtual meeting in us before we can meet again. We’ll see how soon that comes about. Until next time, write on.

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