Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

May 23, 2012 Crown Books, Humor, Review, Women's Fiction 3

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (May 22, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307395057
  • Source: Publisher

Clover is a mom in her early fifties. Due to her husband’s busy schedule as a pediatrician, she gave up her passion as a journalist to attend to her children’s very busy social schedules. Her routine consists of making lunches, transporting her children to and from activities, cleaning the house and making dinner. She’s never really noticed by her family, including her husband Arthur, unless one of these obligations goes unfulfilled.

One morning, she steps out of the shower, looks in the mirror as she brushes her teeth, only to find she can’t see herself. It isn’t due to the steam on the mirror; she’s literally invisible. Obviously, she panics, pulling her son out of bed, questioning of he can see her. A college-graduate that has returned home as he struggles to find a job, Nick barely lifts his head to acknowledge his mother’s presence, much less look at her.

Minutes later she walks past a mirror and Clover is able to see her reflection. Puzzled by what happened, slightly concerned that these were symptoms of a stroke, Clover rushes to her best friend Gilda’s house across the street. Clover explains what happened, but Gilda takes it all in stride, assuming Clover’s claims of being invisible aren’t literal. She assures Clover that all women their age feels this way:

It’s just the plight of a woman after a certain age. No one can see you…we’re nothing but the ghosts of our former selves.

Clover goes on with the rest of her day, returning to her regular routine. The next morning, however, she wakes up to find herself invisible again. Once again, her husband and her children don’t notice. The clothes she’s wearing are visible, just not her body. Her family barely glances at her all morning, completely ignorant of the fact she’s not there.

At Gilda’s recommendation, Clover goes to the doctor who, like her children, barely acknowledge her existence. Continued to be shocked that no one other than Gilda has noticed a problem, Clover once again continues with her regular routine. Until, that is, she spots an advertisement in the paper announcing a meeting of invisible women.

At this meeting, Clover discovers a large group of women who are going through the very same experience as she. She soon realizes they all have something in common: They were all prescribed the same cocktail of drugs to battle medical issues for women of their age, including hormone replacement therapy, calcium supplements, and antidepressants. One pharmacological company is responsible for their current situation. However, like the people in each of these women’s lives, the drug company is oblivious to these women.

Meeting these other invisible women inspires Clover. She uses her “disability” to her advantage and begins to follow her family around during the day. She’s able to experience their lives in a way she was unable to before. She sees how stressful Arthur’s day is a t work, understands the frustrations her children are experiencing. She begins to repair damage to these relationships, a repair that perhaps couldn’t have been possible otherwise. Additionally, along with another invisible woman, Clover takes on the drug company that put them in this situation in the first place. In the end, her disability provides her strength to make right the wrongs in her life, giving Clover a confidence she hadn’t felt in years.

Calling Invisible Women is, without a doubt, the most unique take on the plight of women who have been forgotten and ignored by their loved ones.  While I am nearly 15 years younger than Clover, I can state that there are times I have felt ignored or taken advantage of by my boys and husband. And, like with Clover’s case, this isn’t intentional. We all get caught in the daily routine of life, forgetting to be thankful for what we’ve been given. And while in this case the victims are women, I’m certain almost any individual can sympathize with Clover’s plight, feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged.

Clover embraces her invisibility with a great deal of witty humor. I’m not certain I could remain as calm as she did, given the circumstances. This leads me to the main issue I had with Clover’s character: she forgives her family for their ignorance about her condition. She sees how busy her husband’s work day is and forgives him, almost too easily. I don’t know that I would be as forgiving. Sleeping in the same bed as a person, having sex with that person, only to be oblivious to the fact they are invisible? Granted, there is a real need to suspend disbelief while reading this novel, for obvious reasons. Given there is a great deal of things I gained while reading this book, I can overlook this one issue.

In the end, Calling Invisible Women is a book that I find a large number of individuals, not only women, can relate to. Highly recommended.

3 Responses to “Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray”

  1. Julie
    Twitter: JulieJustReads

    I think this sounds absolutely riveting. I am adding it to my wish list.

  2. Karen White
    Twitter: karenwhitereads

    This topic happened to come up in my writing group recently! It’s a strong metaphor for women in their fifties. Thanks for the review.

  3. Coleen Marlo

    Hi Jeanne, great review on Calling Invisible Women! I had the privilege of narrating the audiobook version for Random House Audio, and really had a wonderful time giving voice to these courage and lovable characters!