Living Dolls and Other Women is a wonderful read. I was intrigued from the first opening pages—which suggest that a violent and threatening presence is amongst the characters—and remained engrossed until the end. Montana Katz does a great job of creating a murder mystery that also reminds us of the threats and violence faced by women. These women’s lives are connected by a string of gruesome crimes in the NYC arts scene toward the end of the 20th century—crimes that may or may not be linked to a vigilante group calling themselves the “Living Dolls”.
Montana Katz is a treasure. She can write, imagine and fictionalize the issues we know so well better than anyone. Living Dolls are finely drawn characters trying to thrive in a world held hostage to harassment every which way they turn in the good old–bad old days when Soho was the Paris of the 80’s.
In this deeply affecting novel, Living Dolls and Other Women, Montana Katz allows us to see what women and girls endure in all aspects of our culture. It is a fictionalization of what is all too real and it is Katz’s brilliant rendering that makes us recognize the truth; grateful for her creative and accessible route to the reality she observes. The art scene in New York City in the 1980s comes astonishingly to life and we are given an eye-opening glimpse of the effects of gender bias on girls and women as in Montana Katz’s previous novel, the scary and compelling Side Effects: A Footloose Journey to the Apocalypse about climate catastrophe. Living Dolls turns out to be romance novel, spine tingling mystery, and tragedy—a page turner—yet never loses sight of the deepest truths of gender bias and its dehumanizing effects on us all.
The girls of The Living Dolls fight for women’s rights and realities amidst it all. Here, in these streets, there are women, at odds with each other’s views, defining their own stakes in the world they inhabit, defining in each turn: femininity, social mobility, power, life. That is the thread that drew me through each page of Living Dolls and Other Women, a persistent, powerful, messy, wonderful view of women in 1980s New York, searching for what it means to be truly themselves.
But Living Dolls is not a traditional murder mystery. Rather, it is a portrait of a time and place in transition — as New York City is always in transition — and of the women who live there, struggling for rights, fair treatment, and their very identities.
S. Montana Katz’ Living Dolls and Other Women is a wondrously unique novel whose characters and plot events emphasize the bias, harassment, and discrimination faced by woman of all ages, in all stages and circles of life, throughout human history.