'These Women' by Ivy Pochoda
That's what I get now when I re-read the synopsis for 'These Women' by Ivy Pochoda.
When I first came across this story, I was certainly intrigued. In life, I've said tearful goodbyes to my share of 'the lost,' which is how I see the many I feel are sadly overlooked. As is true with the characters in this book, the lost can come from any demographic.. from any lifestyle.. from any past or future. Tragedy doesn't pick and choose.. deciding on some mystical idea of a deserving few. That's a uniquely human trait. To see the worst occur and blame the victims.
Told from the perspective of several women, this shifting narrative gives the reader a glimpse of what it's like to walk in each woman's proverbial shoes. Outwardly, it tells a story about a gruesome string of murders spanning two decades, and those whose lives are rocked by them.
It doesn't cease with the victimization of the murders, but rather expands to include the unstated victims as well. Those orbiting the women who are killed.. family, friends, neighbors, police.. even the murderer and their circle of influence.
Inwardly, it's about much more. It's about the minimalization of women. Not just in death, but in life and not in an overblown, sensationalistic way either.. though, that's here too. In the little things.. like the way sometimes it's assumed our perspective just isn't true. In the ways not only outsiders can push us down, but sometimes those we see as friends.. who opt instead to leverage us for their benefit. Though it's not just a women's issue, the act of tearing each other down, isn't exclusive to us. In my personal experience, it can at least seem like we do it much more than men.
I was deeply moved by each of these stories, the misrepresentations, the misunderstandings, the darkness you can see coming a mile away.. but can't seem to move out of. And that's what it's like in some cases. I had a friend in junior high.. who was often out on her own with other kids in her situation. Her parents were more involved in themselves than her. Despite appearances, to a degree I suppose that was the case for all of them, but her details I knew well.
She had a warm, wonderful nature. When she wasn't at school or hanging out with friends, she actually volunteered at an animal shelter. When she and her friends were hurt and she died, there was of course an outpouring of grief, but there was also a lot of finger pointing going on. To me, it's never "their own fault" that something horrible happens. Some lifestyles may put people at higher risk simply because of accessibility, but that doesn't mean they're to blame.
Pochoda did an amazing job of taking these separate threads and slowly, methodically twining them together. Each woman's journey seemed to circle an unseen and magnetic core, spiraling ever closer both to that center and to one another, and the inevitable collision was grand.
Admittedly, I definitely saw the reveal coming early on, but it also never felt important. The killer didn't feel like the motivation for the story at all. The women did. And their stories were the journey.. the best part. I never felt short-changed because I knew who was going to be responsible. I wanted to understand how we were going to get there. I wanted to know why.
What's captured so beautifully in this novel, are the emotional effects of circumstance. Trauma and loss, of course.. but also the slow death of dreams, the peek beneath the illusions crafted around us, the lies we tell ourselves and other people, and the preconceived notions we might have.. walking into any situation.
The novel is gripping and I didn't want to put it down. Ivy Pochoda is an author to watch and I highly recommend you pick up her book if you like mystery, drama, or suspense. 'These Women' is easily one of the best books I've read this year. I look forward to seeing much more from her.
BARNES & NOBLE
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