Title: Last Woman Standing
Author: Amy Gentry
Source: Free ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Goodreads Summary: “From the author of Good as Gone (“So gripping you might want to start to question your own family’s past”—Entertainment Weekly) comes a brilliant and timely thriller: Strangers on a Train by way of Thelma and Louise.
Dana Diaz is an aspiring stand‑up comedian—a woman in a man’s world. When she meets a tough computer programmer named Amanda Dorn, the two bond over their struggles in boys’ club professions. Dana confides that she’s recently been harassed and assaulted while in L.A., and Amanda comes up with a plan: they should go after each other’s assailants, Strangers on a Train–style. But Dana finds that revenge, however sweet, draws her into a more complicated series of betrayals. Soon her distrust turns to paranoia, encompassing strangers, friends—and even herself. At what cost will she get her vengeance? Who will end up getting hurt? And when it’s all over, will there be anyone left to trust?“
Review: This is one of those books I went into kind of unsure. I’m not really into the concept of comedians as a main character in a thriller. It feels…weird. Which is also why I was curious enough to read it. If the author could make it work, could make me love it, that would be a real feat, right? I wish I could say that Gentry pulled it off, but…there were just some things that didn’t work for me.
The main character, as a comedian, isn’t even remotely funny. Maybe not my kind of humor? But it’s hard to buy that she’s finally making it in the industry when I pretty much think she sucks. When she develops the Betty persona later on, it only gets worse.
Though I saw the story potential in the premise – two women taking vengeance on each other’s disgustingly misogynistic and sexually abusive enemies – and the topics of sexual harassment, rape, and women’s anger are timely and under-explored, this book didn’t handle it in a way that I found plausible. So there goes suspension of disbelief right out the window.
Now, I’ll admit that this book made me uncomfortable in its explorations of the depths of female rage in the face of pervasive sexism and abuse, and that discomfort could be part of the reason I didn’t love this book. And, I might be taking the handling of this subject matter a bit too seriously. It is fiction after all. These two women are meant to represent an extreme. But I guess I feel that, in this climate, there just isn’t any room to depict women, violated and angry or not, in this way.
What I did like? The first chapter sucked me right in, which is not something that happens all the time. Especially, when I’m unsure going in. It really got my hopes up. And while I think the angle this story took was misguided, at no point did I have any issue with the writing or the style of the storytelling. It was the characters and the plot that rankled. I might be convinced to give this author another chance down the road.
Ultimately, I didn’t like any of the characters, but I especially couldn’t stand the main character. Though I appreciated the highlighting of the pervasive issue of sexism and sexual abuse against women, the story took a seriously wrong turn that sunk the ship for me.