In Leodas’ (Unsafe Harbor, 2005, etc.) latest novel, a group of women working at the United Nations unite to form a “sorority” with the goal of combating world hunger and poverty.
The novel brings together the unique stories of five women working as aides to influential diplomats. In a successful literary device, each woman is embroiled in a dangerous, violent scheme of personal revenge. For the most part, these women are more than entitled to their retribution, and their actions add a layer of legitimacy and intrigue to their mission, although there are exceptions. The story is narrated in the first person by Adam Churchill, whose girlfriend, Laura, is the founder of the “Achilles Heart” sorority. Yet Laura remains an enigma throughout the novel. Unlike her cohorts, Pilar, Shaba and Alise, Laura hasn’t been subjected to humiliation and degradation. She’s the inspiration for the other women, but it’s their struggles that stir in Laura a fascination with violence. A fifth woman, Judy, serves primarily to add a less-than-angelic twist to Laura’s scheming. Leodas experiments with unusual syntax to keep the story moving quickly, and sentences appear to be in such a rush to get on the page that they frequently leave behind a preposition or article. Verbs are sometimes oddly employed: “She terrified at the thought.” Often the disregard for grammatical conventions works; when it does, the effect is immediate and dramatic. But the technique is applied unevenly without discipline. Too frequently readers are left to fill in the missing parts, serving to distract and disengage them from the novel.
Structural quirks notwithstanding, the interesting premise makes for an entertaining read with more than one unexpected turn.