I have to admit, I went into this read kind of blindly. The cover really caught my attention, and I just dove in without really knowing what I was going to get.
And whoa, did I get a lot.
These Women is told through six POVs, each woman's story different but connected by a violent string of murders in LA. The victims are prostitutes, strippers, or dancers, and in the fifteen years since they started, no one has been charged.
I'm hesitant to go into specific details beyond this because reading These Women was an experience. I love inter-connected narratives, each voice separate but building on the one that came before it. Pochoda's structuring worked so well in this case, and I couldn't pick a favorite section if I tried. From Dorian, the mother of one of the victims who feeds women on the streets while trying to protect them, to Orphelia, the lone survivor of a brutal, horrifying attack, to Detective Perry and her desire for justice, their stories and motivations blended together effortlessly, painfully, and in their completion was a stark observation about gender, class, and race.
This book made me angry. On the first level, you have women who have been subjected to terrible violence. They aren't believed because they're women--crazy, irrational, hysterical. Their problems are ignored, belittled, and discredited. On top of this is the class aspect, where women are divided into classes--indeed, this system becomes so ingrained they become active participants, assigning distinctions to other women to make themselves feel superior--and none of these cases were connected, investigated, or pursued because of the "type" of victim.
How hard women have to fight to be heard, to be believed. Pochoda reiterates this point continuously throughout the book, through different observations and discussions, each woman's individual experiences, and the various ways in which women are sidelined or put down. They are unified in this sphere and vulnerable because of it.
One other thing I really liked about this book was its focus on the women and not the murderer. I love a good serial killer book as much as the next person, but I was struck by how infrequently I read something that's not focused on the psyche of a killer or the quick-witted, clever Final Girl. Pochoda instead highlights the reality that even if justice in the conventional sense is met, it is often messy, ill-timed and riddled with grief.
Overall, These Women is a gritty, raw, engrossing read with tragically beautiful storytelling and authentic characters.