Ivy Pochoda seems incapable of writing the same story twice; and yet every time she puts words down on the page they are distinctly her own and always, always worth reading. Her latest, These Women, is linked to her excellent 2017 stand-out, Wonder Valley, by way of its setting – Los Angeles, and every nook and cranny around those environs. Everything Pochoda writes is imbued with her unique feminist viewpoint, but this has never been more evident than it is in These Women.
Taking the style she used for Wonder Valley one step further, These Women is also comprised of multiple threads woven together to create a tapestry-like final product. However, in the case of These Women, the story is divided into individual portraits of five women linked by a series of crimes. Experiencing these interconnected novellas documenting each of their lives is akin to spending an afternoon chatting with your best girlfriend and learning all about her – the good, the bad, the ugly. By telling the experiences of these specific women, Ivy Pochoda celebrates the lives of *all* women…and in doing so, she alters perceptions forever.
Ivy Pochoda did not choose these women randomly. Dorian, Julianna, Essie, Marella, and Anneke come from different walks of life, they have had different life experiences, but their paths, while divergent, share commonalities that help to make them familiar to even the most jaded reader. They spring to life on the page and readers bond with each.
Revealing too much of each woman’s story would be unfair. The magic of These Women is watching how Ivy Pochoda skillfully manipulates her readers in such subtle ways, so as to force them to self-examine and reflect upon their own unsubstantiated assumptions and biases. Spoilers would only serve to ruin the power of the cumulative whole, which remains totally hidden within the simplicity of the various parts. Just know that once exposed, it is impossible to deny. Readers will be changed in a way that only literature can achieve.
Never forget that this *is* a crime novel. In addition to the serial killer storyline that serves as the connective tissue, there are smaller crimes and micro-aggressions that populate the story of these women, the story of all women. These Women is a dark journey, but one that allows a glimmer of hope to survive; a spark that, if fed, could become a revolution.
This review would not be complete without mention of Ivy Pochoda’s incandescent prose. She has a way of turning words into hugs that envelope the reader in a cushion of security. A tale like this can often feel dangerous and risky, but with her skill at negotiating the gritty and the sublime, Pochoda soothes the reader’s tensions right up until the final page is turned and all the wounds have been exposed. These Women is a highlight of this year’s crime fiction output and will certainly be seen on many year-end lists of favorite novels of 2020 and on award shortlists – both crime fiction-related and beyond.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.