Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an audiobook I picked up on spec from the library and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable books I've ever encountered. The tone was delicious, the reader, Coleen Marlo, perfect, and the story amazing. It's one of those stories which makes a hopeful writer like me wish I had thought of it first, but I doubt I could have written this particular story as well as Jeanne Ray did. The tone of voice in the story is beautiful: slightly bemused, humorous, and a little bit sarcastic. It's first person, too, which I normally do not like, but it was perfect here. Audiobooks tend to be much more experimental with me because I'm a captive audience when commuting, so I see a lot of fails with these, but those are worth the listening, because one in a while one like this pops up and makes it all worthwhile.

Clover Hobart is a fifty-four year old woman who discovers one morning that she's invisible. Her visibility wavers for a day or two before it becomes, apparently, permanent. The weird thing though is not her visibility, but the fact that no one in her family: not her husband the pediatrician, not her emotional daughter, and not her unemployed son who is living at home see any difference. She's apparently always been invisible to them!

Her best friend Gilda, who lives down the street, notices. At first Clover starts panicking, but as she grows used to it, she realizes there are things she can do. If she takes her clothes off, no one can see her and it's a super power. She discovers there are other such women in her position and that they have a secret society which meets in the Sheraton in a conference room which they don't even have to book to reserve it. No one knows they're using it! Since these women all travel naked, they have to bring a tissue with them so they can raise it when they want to speak. Clover becomes friends with some of them. At first she has a problem with the nudity, but since one property of invisibility is that she doesn't feel heat or cold, she eventually embraces it as they have done.

One day, she accompanies one of her new acquaintances to the school where she lost her job when she became invisible. The two of them ride the school bus and spend the day in the school. No one can see them and they're able to prevent bullying and tackle other issues. This inspires the other woman to think she can get her job back. On another day, Clover foils a bank robbery, but of course gets no credit since no one could see her do anything. They just thought the robber randomly threw his guns away!

I noted that some critics down-rated the story for being unrealistic(!) or vacuous, but to me, the whole point of the story was to be playful and light-hearted, and have fun while exploring a very real issue: the metaphorical invisibility which older women routinely experience, and which they do so far more than older men. I think the author did a fantastic job and I want to read more of her work. I recommend this unreservedly.

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