REVIEW: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
“A mom in her early fifties, Clover knows she no longer turns heads the way she used to, and she’s only really missed when dinner isn’t on the table on time. Then Clover wakes up one morning to discover she’s invisible–truly invisible. She panics, but when her husband and son sit down to dinner, nothing is amiss. Even though she’s been with her husband, Arthur, since college, her condition goes unnoticed. Her friend Gilda immediately observes that Clover is invisible, which relieves Clover immensely–she’s not losing her mind after all!–but she is crushed by the realization that neither her husband nor her children ever truly look at her. She was invisible even before she knew she was invisible.
Clover discovers that there are other women like her, women of a certain age who seem to have disappeared. As she uses her invisibility to get to know her family and her town better, Clover leads the way in helping invisible women become recognized and appreciated no matter what their role.”
Dear Ms. Ray,
I fell in love with your first book “Julie and Romeo” then wryly laughed my way through “Step-Ball-Change” though I will admit to failing to keep up with the books after that. So many books, so little time. I did remember that first book from time to time and say “I need to see what she’s written lately” so I was a happy bunny when we were offered your latest book for review. After reading it, I’m glad to discover that your gentle, humorously zinging style is still humming along.
I have heard the sayings for years – that older women become invisible to strangers then to family, that older women are overlooked, that older women fade into the background. Maybe this is why older women turn to purple to stand out? Since I’m headed towards this age, the plot made me sit up and want to read the book. But to Clover, it actually comes true. She also discovers that it leads to some freedoms. If no one cares what you wear, then you can wear anything, go anywhere, say anything and shrug your shoulders saying “the hell with it.” I’m understanding my mother more and more lately.
The book is more women’s fiction – even older women’s fiction as Clover ponders her two children 20 and 24 which might be a turn off to some but the marriage she has is a sturdy one and I enjoyed seeing how it’s held together over the years, though it does take her busy doctor husband a while to catch on to the obvious. Still, once he does he proves that he’s one of the good ones as he rallies to the cause.
Vlad and Nick and Miller, the young men of the story, give me hope – they’re basically decent guys who’ve been raised right by their mommas – which is high praise in the South. Daughter Evie I wanted to shake. Just wait til she gets older and some of that Beautiful Woman light begins to fade and she can’t get by on her looks any more. I hope Clover is still there to gently let her in on “life after your youth is past.”
There are things here that the reader is required to accept: that there is an army of invisible women out there and that some people have actually noticed this – as in the case of the nurse or the teacher Lila Robinson who got fired after fading away – and that it hasn’t become a headline news story. With all the 24 hour news stations desperate for copy and something to fill air space this stretches credulity but that’s what must be believed. Okay, fine. Clover’s initial reaction – stunned panic – makes sense as do her practice efforts about how to live with it and get around in society. Her finding the help group would be a Godsend of support – emotional and practical. There truly are support groups for everything these days.
Yet I’m surprised that it’s taken the Invisible Women so long to confront the pharmaceutical giant responsible for manufacturing the meds that turned them invisible. Or that Jane, the woman who’s devoted so much time to haunting their headquarters, reading mail, listening to conversations and being able to find out so much about what’s going on there, wouldn’t have confronted TPTB there or have met with the chemist who agreed to talk to them. She and Clover are remarkably calm in the face of his brusque response to their enquiries. I think I would have acted on Clover’s thought to overturn his desk and run amok. I’ve always wanted to run amok.
Still, once the ladies make up their minds and decide that they are “mad as hell” and they’re not going to take it anymore, they get organized via Social Media, T-shirts, picket signs and physical presence to make their voices heard and their demands known. Power to the invisible women!
But there’s more to this book than just one women or some women who feel that they were practically invisible to their families, coworkers and friends before actually turning invisible. Clover discovers that there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her husband and son. So the question is, how much do most of us really see those around us? Beyond how the presence or lack of it of those people impacts us and our day, how much attention do we pay to them and how much should we? That’s a sobering mass of thoughts to think on. B
What an interesting idea. As I have aged I have observed going from being helped (by men) because the man thought I was attractive to being helped because I remind him of his mother or, god forbid, his grandmother. The invisible woman is a great concept and so true! I was asked, with absolute seriousness what it was like “coping with not being beautiful any more”. Why not just call me a crone and be done with it.
It’s a dilemma no one prepares you for: Should you be outraged at the wolf whistles from construction workers as you walk down the street or dismayed at the lack of them these days? That’s a joke, btw, not a prescription for how to live your life.
We do become invisible in many ways, but hopefully more visible and meaningful to ourselves at the same time. Thanks for the review; I like the premise of this book.
Now, do I go with the 8-eyelet floral Doc Martens or the bright blue pair?
I was all in on this book until I saw the $12 price for the ebook.
Not for a new to me author.
I think I could believe that the media wouldn’t care or cover disappearing middle aged women when there are so many drunks and drug addicts and other ‘personalities’ behaving badly. Once it was that sex sells, now it seems like stupid sells.
One of the things I’ve found that is other women of the same age ‘see’ you. They’ll tell you if you should cut your hair or shut your mouth or have another glass of wine. But then I’ve generally found other women to be a great sorce of support over the years.
@Darlynne: Geeze, floral? No.
@JoanneL: But have you SEEN them? They’re beautiful. The shoes, I mean. The women are, too, and I like your point that we see each other. We really do.
Exactly. I’m in my early 40s and realizing that I’m losing something I never wanted – and I’m oddly saddened by it. I spent my teens and much of my 20s hiding from the male gaze. Part of it was being uncomfortable in my body, and part of it was really wanting to be taken seriously for my ideas and not my looks. One of the many gifts of aging has been becoming more comfortable with my body, my sexuality, and myself in general – I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But it is funny and a little bittersweet that by the time I got comfortable with my body, the larger world had mostly lost interest. (And that’s also incredibly freeing)
I read and enjoyed Julie and Romeo and didn’t keep up with the author either. Thanks for the review.
@JoanneL: Try “Julie and Romeo.” It’s got an older hero and heroine finding love for the second time and is absolutely a wonderful book. I’m sure you could find it for less money and give Ray a try.
@HelenB: I’m getting to the point where I’m fiesty enough to reply to such a moron “it’s easier to cope with being a crone rather than being stupid.” This is of course accompanied with a pointed look at the stupid person who asked that question.
@Darlynne: I actually got a wolf whistle not too long ago. And I actually laughed my ass off at it because inwardly I was thinking, “buddy if you only knew I’m probably old enough to be your mother.”
Am I the only one who’s never gotten wolf whistles, second looks, or anything like that? I think I’ve always been invisible (or maybe I’m simply oblivious)! This looks like a great summer read. I’m definitely adding it to my TBR list.
Wow. Julie and Romeo is $12 also for the Kindle book.
@Lori: Well, fuckety. That sucks. In that case, honestly I would advise buying a used paperback copy of it so that you can get an idea about her writing style. I know it’s probably not kosher for me to say that but I agree that this is a lot of money to drop on a new-to-you author.
Is this a new book by Jeanne Ray? I absolutely loved “Step, Ball, Change” and liked “Romeo & Julie” and “Romeo & Julie Get Lucky”, thought her book with “Cake” in the title was only so-so. But I read somewhere that she said she had only 4 books in her and that her muse had disappeared, so I’m happy to learn that she’s now increased her output by 25%.
As for those who don’t want to spend $12 for copies of her older books, they are often available at the library or at a UBS.
@Susan/DC: Yes, this is her new (hopefully newest) book. Maybe the muse is coming back for an extended encore.
There’s a whole other aspect of this book…beyond the issues and social/cultural conversations about a woman’s role or women aging. It’s about whistle blowers or those who stand up to the Goliaths of either a corporate entity or our own unquestioned norms. Jayne said, “Yet I’m surprised that it’s taken the Invisible Women so long to confront the pharmaceutical giant responsible for manufacturing the meds that turned them invisible.” Of course in retrospect it seems easy and obvious. But, e.g., historically, It took years of courage and fortitude and perseverance by mid-wives to point out to the status quo that doctors were killing women and babies because they didn’t wash their hands before and after delivering babies! This book, to me is an allegory that gave me a light-hearted personal boost because of the discounting and disdain and belittling that I don’t take personally, but that are the automatic cultural reaction to questioning the status quo.
I’m electro-magnetically sensitive and I can feel the transmissions of baby monitors, cellphones, iPads and smart meters ripping through me. I also happen to be a profession research project manager…so I’m objective as hell, and have found there is an extensive but squelched group of professionals (even the American Academy of Pediatrics) and regular people like me screaming for investigations and precautions. But the marketing departments and the media and economic/gov groups that are part of the status quo will discount any reference to those of us who are exceptions, i.e., those of us who are the “canaries in a coal mine” – the first to experience the harmful effects of something.
So please, listen to the deeper message of the book also. Go from a mental set of romance to one of allegory and inquire into “why” is it so difficult within our human community, to bring up and resolve “obviously” harmful actions within our economic marketplaces?
Realize and appreciate that this a light-hearted allegorical story that could wake you up…as Jayne finally said, “So the question is, how much do most of us really see those around us [or what is happening around us]?”