“Last Woman Standing”- Amy Gentry

***Note: This review may contain triggers, please use caution.***

From the time we are little we crave connection. The first few years that want of a connection is cultivated by our immediate family. Then school enters our lives and we have endless possibilities of friendship, as well as betrayal, and indifference. Sleepovers induce a sense of security and confessions can flow freely. The older we get, the sleepovers fade, and the confessions are harder and harder to admit, shame creeping in instead of a best friend’s listening ear. At some point past high school, (some of us) have become accustomed to internalizing everything, haunted by our own admissions and stuck in a vicious cyclical circle of self-loathing. Then, by chance, we meet another human being who has walked a parallel path, someone who understands. What happens when shared experiences take a turn for something dark? Will your new confessions make you forget what happened in the past, or will it materialize into new regrets?

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Dana Diaz has one goal in mind; to become the funniest person in Austin, Texas. After spending four years in L.A. Dana was determined to move back to her home state a prove her worth. As a woman comedian, the odds are stacked against her, and she reminds herself of her faults on a constant basis. She’s working in a male-dominated arena and it seems all Dana can attract are hecklers and sympathizers. After a particularly rough set, a supporter introduces herself as Amanda, a fellow L.A. resident turned Texan. The two women bond over drinks and possibilities of running into each other in L.A. As the liquor flows so do the confessions.

Dana and Amanda may have just met, but they find a common thread; both have been sexually assaulted. Amanda’s assault cost her her career, a programmer for an errand app called Runnr. When the boss starts sending unsolicited pictures, she takes it HR who take their time working a settlement to keep her quiet. Hearing Amanda’s assault gives Dana a flashback of hers. What should have been a comedic meeting of the minds turned into a debasement in the back seat of an SUV.

The women become best friends instantaneously over their similar journeys. What else do you do with a newfound best friend other than compare said journeys and what they could do differently. One thing they both agree on; any man who violates a woman should suffer just as much (if not more) than his victim. With that thought in mind, Dana and Amanda set out on a path lined with revenge. Is it more than Dana bargained for or will Amanda have the last laugh?

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Note: While I may not look upon some of the things I say as a spoiler, others might. It is never my intention to spoil a book for anyone. Please proceed at your own risk. Also note, this book contains quite a few triggers.

 

The Covers:

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This is the standard version. To be honest it’s a sub-par book cover, nothing that would particularly draw me in unless I knew the author’s style of writing and enjoyed it (making it an automatic buy). To me, it has your typical thriller/suspense cover. HOWEVER, if you sat this book and Gentry’s first book As Good As Gone next to each other on a bookshelf, it would look gorgeous.

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Usually, I am a HUGE fan of international book covers, but this time around it’s rather disappointing. If I saw this version on shelves it would be an immediate skip over. It’s probably just my own annoyance, I just feel there are too many covers with women “peeking at something” on the cover.

Last Woman Standing happens to be Gentry’s second novel. I did not read As Good As Gone and you do not need to read the first to understand the second.

 

The Characters: Our main character is Dana Diaz. A 5 foot 4 inch Mexican, stand-up comedian trying to make a name for herself. She carries her problems on her shoulders and makes light of her situations through her jokes, only making the audience uncomfortable at times. She has little to no self-confidence, all of which has been stolen by her sexual abuse of the past.

Amanda Dorn is one of the supporting characters. Amanda meets Dana at the stand-up bar and they connect over a heckler. With free-flowing drinks comes free-flowing confessions of similar sexual assaults. The two feel an almost sorority connection and vow that they “have each other’s backs” when it comes to destroying the men that destroyed them.

Jason Murphey would be the only other supporting character worth mentioning. He is Dana’s longtime best friend. The two grew up together in Amarilla Texas, separated a bit during college, but ended up back together as friends in L.A. looking for their big break in the comedic scene.

The underlying tone: This book has a theme that is hard to ignore. It is completely up in your face. I would absolutely, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt put this book down as part of the #METOO movement. For women who have suffered sexual abuse of any kind can relate, as well as shut down a bit from some of the things mentioned in Last Woman Standing. The understanding of not telling anyone because of shame. The change in certain behaviors because of coping mechanisms. The inability to let go of the past, feeling as though they are deserving, or “got what’s coming to them”. The anxiety of being around the place it happened, the person who did it, the color, anything that would trigger the memory of that fateful day.

I would also classify this book as fem-lit (or feminist literature). This theme is not typically one I read because I don’t enjoy getting caught up in the politics of it all, the arguments, the disagreements, etc.

The Good:  Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that women suffering from sexual abuse are not alone. It’s not as uncommon as we like to think it is. The fact that it happens on a daily basis absolutely makes me sick. The fact that we as human beings have not “evolved” beyond that is disheartening.

Gentry’s writing is absolutely titillating. I don’t think there was a time that I WASN’T drawn into the story. Her writing is clear, concise, and to the point. Normally I’m a detail-oriented person, but in this case, I was fine with the amount of detail she put in.

The Last Woman Standing also turns into a creepy read about halfway through. Fans of Swimfan will absolutely appreciate the level of stalking mentioned in this book.

The Bad: I’ve got to admit, I had a hard time reading the first half of the book. While I could relate to the trauma the women went through, I had a hard time putting into the concept of “an eye for an eye”. While the men may have been deserving of “you’ll get what’s coming to you”, the actions in this book prove that nothing good will come of taking matters into your own hands. There were times in the first half of the book I was waiting for someone to don a cape and become a superhero, a seeker of justice.

The Ugly- For some people, this will be a trigger book. Some may feel a gratification reading this all the way through, others may not (hey, we’re all on our own healing journey). Gentry tackles the on-going sexual abuse issue without mercy; just like a perpetrator would take his victim. Although uncomfortable to read, it’s a matter of fact that this is happening all too much, with the shame too much to bear that it’s left in silence.

The Author-  This is my very first Amy Gentry book. I was a bit nervous when I learned that this is her second book, I thought for sure I’d have to read As Good As Gone so I wouldn’t miss anything. Readers rejoice when I tell you that these are two separate novels. While this may not be my go-to kind of read (hey, it’s a hard subject to tackle, I’m not sure I know anyone that’s excited to read sexual abuse kind of stuff) I would absolutely re-read another book by Gentry. She has this way with words that lulls you into a trance and before you know it the book is over.

If you or someone you know has suffered or is suffering from sexual abuse please call 800.656.HOPE (4673). By entering the first six digits of your phone number (or your zip code if you’re using your cellphone) you’ll be put in touch with a local sexual assault service provider.

 

4-Star-Rating

Last Woman Standing” by Amy Gentry is available January 15th, 2019! I was chosen by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.

 

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