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Calling Invisible Women

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Overview

A delightfully funny novel packing a clever punch, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Julie and Romeo
 
   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 ...
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Calling Invisible Women: A Novel

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Overview

A delightfully funny novel packing a clever punch, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Julie and Romeo
 
   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.  Smart and hilarious, with indomitable female characters, Calling Invisible Women will appeal to anyone who has ever felt invisible.

Praise for Jeanne Ray’s novels:
"A captivating comic romp...Wise, winsome, and refreshingly optimistic." --People
"A comic gem of a love story...completely entertaining." --The Denver Post
"At last, someone has written a love story for and about grown-ups! A smart, sexy celebration of the timeless nature of romance." --A. Manette Ansay
"A little jewel of a book." --The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Love and desire will not be denied in this lighthearted inversion of a classic story. Filled with the delicate sweetness of fresh flowers and new love, Julie and Romeo is a smart, funny, touching book. Where has Jeanne Ray been hiding all these years?" --Alison McGhee, author of Shadow Baby
"A charming, smart love story with interesting characters and great laughs." -- The Christian Science Monitor

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fifty-something Clover has long felt invisible to her husband and children, but when she wakes one morning to discover she can't see herself in the mirror, her fears become reality. Initially, she panics and worries that she is going blind, or even worse, insane—her son, Nick, and husband, Arthur, don't seem to notice. Clover soon realizes, however, that she isn't imagining her invisibility and her family had simply stopped seeing her years ago. When browsing the classified section of the newspaper, Clover finds an ad for an upcoming meeting: "Calling Invisible Women." She soon discovers a community of other middle-aged, invisible women, who inform Clover that their condition is caused by a reaction between three drugs made by Dexter-White pharmaceuticals: an antidepressant, a hormone replacement therapy drug, and a calcium supplement. Meeting more afflicted women inspires Clover to embrace her invisibility rather than hide it. She shadows her husband at work, polices the school buses to stop bullies, and even thwarts a bank robbery. With other women in the support group, Clover decides to take action against Dexter-White and demand justice for the drug interaction that caused their condition. While Ray's concept of middle-aged women feeling overlooked by society may not be new, the characters in this fast, fun read are empowered and proactive. (May)
Library Journal
Clover Hobart sometimes feels invisible. A woman in her mid-fifties, mother of two older children, and wife of a busy pediatrician, Clover is expected to deliver clean laundry and have dinner on the table. So imagine her distress when she wakes up one morning literally, actually, truly invisible. She is horrified; what will her husband and family think? How will they cope with this bizarre tragedy? As the family gathers around the dinner table—they simply do not notice that Clover is invisible. No one does, except her best friend, Gilda. Then Clover reads an ad in the newspaper, calling invisible women to meet at the Sheraton Hotel. There, she finds a cohort—who knew there were invisible women all around us all the time? And then Clover learns to use her invisibility—to spy on her teenage son, learn more about her husband, and, yes, even fight crime. But when will her family take notice? VERDICT Written by novelist Ann Patchett's mother (Romeo and Julie Get Lucky), this is a perfectly fabulous read that speaks volumes about society's lack of awareness of middle-aged women. Read it as fast as you can, before it disappears before your eyes.—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC
Kirkus Reviews
In this slim comic treatise on the social status of middle-aged women, Clover Hobart disappears. It had been happening metaphorically for a long time--her job as stealth reporter for the newspaper had slowly morphed into a weekly gardening column, her husband barely notices her and her grown children take her for granted. No one hits on her anymore. And then one morning she wakes up invisible. Her body has mass and weight, but she is shockingly see-through. When her sleepy son Nick doesn't notice, she rushes over to her friend Gilda, who thankfully (Clover's not crazy!) perceives that she's not there. Strangely, or not, no one seems to notice she's invisible--they see her clothes, hear her voice. That her head and hands are missing…well, it only reaffirms what Clover's been feeling for a while: she's simply disappeared. Luckily she comes upon an ad for the next meeting of invisible women at the downtown Sheraton. In the conference room Clover is met with a circle of chairs, disembodied testimonials and a shocking revelation--these women slip out of their clothes to become completely unseen, and do some rather interesting things. She also discovers that they've all been on the same three medications--for menopause, bone density and depression--manufactured by a big pharmaceutical, which tacitly admits something may be going on with this particular combination of drugs. With her support group, Clover begins relishing her invisibility. She's stopped bullies at the local high school, foiled a bank robbery and prevented her son from obtaining an awful tattoo. She just wishes her husband, a good guy in all other ways, would notice. It seems there are a lot of invisible women out there, but they can't get help unless they are heard and seen. Ray's novel could have easily slipped into a series of jokes, but suitably she creates substantial characters for this whimsy. Though the novel has a softer bite than the best satires (Fay Weldon's, for one), it offers a lot of witty charm.
From the Publisher
“Witty and thought-provoking, Invisible Women will call out to any female who’s ever been made to feel invisible by virtue of her age, her gender, or both.”  
People (3 ½ stars)

“In a story both whimsical and significant, Jeanne Ray addresses an all-too-familiar fate that many women seem to suffer as they grow older…. Heartfelt, inspirational and uplifting, Calling Invisible Women calls out to readers with a passionate and important message. This book is clearly one that deserves to be noticed.”
BookPage

“In her satirical tale of a woman trying to find herself, Ray, the mother of novelist Ann Patchett, offers a commentary about what it’s like for women to grow older.”
New York Post, Required Reading

“Jeanne Ray’s newest novel, Calling Invisible Women, tells the humorous, touching story of how Clover reclaims her sense of self. Stripping off her clothes to go undetected, she becomes a sort of superhero: punishing bullies on the school bus, halting bank robberies, preventing her son from getting a tattoo—not to mention reigniting her career as an investigative journalist. Invisibility is hardly a subtle metaphor. But Ray argues persuasively that going undercover has its benefits.”
O, The Oprah Magazine (Summer Pick), Abbe Wright

“This is a perfectly fabulous read that speaks volumes about society’s lack of awareness of middle-aged women. Read it as fast as you can, before it disappears before your eyes.”
Library Journal, starred review

“The heroine of bestselling novelist Jeanne Ray's Calling Invisible Women bands together with other invisible women in her town to fight back, gaining a new view of her town, her loved ones and herself… Ray, who didn't start writing novels until she was 60 - inspired partly by the urge to show that people "of a certain age" had as much fun and delight in their lives as younger folk - said a liking on her part for people with superpowers, like invisibility, gave the book its driving impetus… Julie and Romeo, the story of two people over 60 who find new romance - and the first of six novels, many of which center on women in their 50s and 60s and have led Ray to be dubbed "the mother of senior literature," a title she says she finds hilarious. While still in the draft stage, Ray received advice on her first book from her daughter, award-winning novelist Ann Patchett, who has written Bel Canto and other books.”
Reuters

“Every homemaker who feels she's taken for granted should open Calling Invisible Women and meet Clover Hobart, who looks in the bathroom mirror one day and realizes that not only does she feel invisible, she is invisible…. Fans of Jeanne Ray know that (as with her 2003 debut Julie and Romeo) we'll come to feel that we know Clover and sympathize with her plight. It's readers' good fortune that Ray brings her light, smart touch to this comic take on women of a certain age who feel they've disappeared. A comic tale of a middle-aged woman whose family doesn't notice her—even when she actually disappears.”
—Shelf Awareness

“The characters in this fast, fun read are empowered and proactive.”
Publishers Weekly

“Women of a certain age will devour Ray’s sly satire on the perils of big pharma, middle age, and the unseen consequences of living the quiet life.”
Booklist

“Offers a lot of witty charm.”
Kirkus

“Jeanne Ray is truly wise and funny about family, friendship, and love—about the ways in which we see (and don’t see) each other.  Calling Invisible Women is an utter delight.”
—Hilma Wolitzer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307395054
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 844,667
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeanne Ray worked as a registered nurse for forty years before she wrote her first novel at the age of sixty. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and her dog, Red. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Julie and Romeo, Julie and Romeo Get Lucky, Eat Cake, and Step-Ball-Change.
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Read an Excerpt

9780307395054|excerpt

Ray / CALLING INVISIBLE WOMEN

one

I first noticed I was missing on a Thursday. Red and I had already been for our walk and he went to sleep on the bath mat while I was taking my shower. Red is a Cairn terrier. He’s bath mat size. After the shower I was standing in front of the mirror in a toweling robe brushing my teeth. When I looked up I was gone.

It didn’t startle me at first, not exactly. I thought it was just some trick of the light, a fog that had built up on the mirror, but when I wiped my sleeve over the medicine cabinet I still wasn’t there. My toothbrush was there, floating by itself several inches out from the cuff of my robe, and the robe was there, the collar and shoulders filling out the bottom of the mirror’s frame, but I was missing. I moved from side to side a couple of times trying to fit myself back into the picture, but all I saw was the open shower curtain behind me, the tiles of the tub, the built-­in shelf that held the shampoo and conditioner. I spat out the toothpaste and there it was in the sink looking exactly like toothpaste. That was when I thought: stroke. Pieces of my vision were missing, even though I couldn’t imagine what kind of stroke would just remove a face, a neck, a hand. Leaning forward toward the mirror, I gently tapped my invisible fingers against my invisible cheek and what had once been a finger was stopped by what had once been a face. Curiosity was quickly being replaced by a rising wall of panic. I was fifty-­four years old, and I was gone.

“Red?” I said, trying out my voice. Unlike the rest of me, my voice was still there. Red lifted his head from the bath mat and looked straight at me, his brown eyes bright and full of recognition. He wagged his tail, thinking that maybe I wanted to go for another walk. Tentatively, I held out my invisible hand to him, wondering if I was dead and, if I was, what effect it would have on the poor dog. But Red sniffed the place where my hand should have been and gave it a couple of licks. I felt the rough wash of his tongue working over my phantom wrist, which I took to be a good sign, and so I went back to the mirror again. Still not there.

I went into the bedroom feeling light-­headed, or feeling like someone who didn’t have a head, and, sitting down on the edge of the bed (which gave a creak of recognition), I picked up the phone and dialed the back-­line number at Arthur’s office. I suppose that any day one finds one’s self to be invisible was not going to shape up to be a lucky day, so when Arthur’s nurse Mary answered I shouldn’t have been surprised. Arthur has three nurses and getting Mary on the phone was the definite equivalent of drawing the short straw.

“Dr. Hobart’s office,” she said, impatient from the start.

“Mary, it’s Clover. I need to speak to Arthur.” I was struggling not to hyperventilate.

I could see her shaking her head. “He’s in with a patient. Is there something I can help you with?”

Maybe she thought I was calling in regard to a sick child, even though she knew that Nick was twenty-­three and Evie was twenty. “Can you get him for me?”

“He has patients waiting in all five of the exam rooms with fourteen more in the waiting room.” Her voice was both flat and brisk. “He’s in with the mayor’s wife now. Their second-­grader has a rash. It could be a tick bite. We’ve got a vomiting toddler in room three and a first-­time mother in room one who has brought in a week’s worth of used diapers that she has been refrigerating because she thinks the stool is inconsistent.”

“I get it,” I said, though there was nothing even notable about her report. This was Arthur’s day, all day, every day, from the minute he walked in the door of his office until the minute he left, and even when he left, much of his work managed to follow him home. I understood it was her job to protect him in any way possible, to use herself to create a human shield between him and the world, but I never did appreciate the fact that she applied that same shield against me. I almost never called the office.

“Is it an emergency?” Mary asked.

“It is.”

“Okay,” she said, but I could tell she had already been distracted. I could hear a shrill screaming in the background, and then, abruptly, the line went dead.

So there I was, the phone levitating in midair. I stared at it for a minute before hanging up. Even if I’d gotten Arthur on the line he no doubt would have told me that children don’t become invisible and so he wouldn’t know anything about it. Arthur had a way of making it sound like he had attended some special sort of junior medical school at which he had received absolutely no information whatsoever about the human body past the age of sixteen. It was his means of deflecting grown-­ups who casually hit him up for Adderall prescriptions at dinner parties, but it also meant he never was much of a help to the adult members of his own family.

And who’s to say I was invisible anyway? If I was cracking up, if I’d just suffered some sort of cerebral hemorrhage, I would in fact be a poor judge of the situation. I tightened the belt on my robe and I marched up the stairs to Nick’s room, Red right behind me. I could feel my bare feet against the floor. Nick is our oldest, and I opened the door to his room without knocking because he had gone away to college and stayed away for almost two years after graduating. I had made his room my office: a desk, a lamp, a chair. My mother had made my room a sewing room when I moved away. Now my computer was back in the kitchen. “Nick!” I said to the man who was sleeping face down and shirtless in a pile of crumpled sheets. “Nicky, wake up!”

When he didn’t wake up I took hold of his heel with my invisible hand and shook it. I could see his entire leg turning back and forth inside the flannel pajama bottoms I had bought for him two Christmases ago; I could feel the heat of his heel in my palm. Red jumped into the bed and stood for a moment on Nick’s back. In our household, only Red had experienced unequivocal joy at Nick’s return.

“What?” he said into his pillow. It wasn’t quite eight in the morning. It was for Nick an unseen hour.

“I need you to look at me.”

“You look fine,” he said, or I think that’s what he said. He hadn’t lifted his head.

I flicked the switch to the overhead lights, and then I went to the windows and snapped up the rolling shades. With admirably quick reflexes, Nick drew himself into a ball and howled the howl of all vampires exposed to sunlight. In the light I could see that the room, which I had told him he would have to clean himself when he moved home six months ago, had not been cleaned. He scrunched his pillow down over the back of his head while Red buried his nose into the covers in search of Nick’s nose.

“What?” he cried, either to me or the dog.

“I need you to tell me if you can see me.” I was trying to keep my voice steady but I could hear the panic.

He rolled over, blinking in my general direction. The light was burning his eyes. He pressed his chin down to his chest, lengthening his neck like a turtle. “What’s this about?”

“Do. You. See. Me.”

“You don’t like your bathrobe anymore? You want to know if it’s becoming? I don’t know what you’re asking.”

“How can you not know what I’m asking? Am I here?”

Nick had been a history major at Oberlin, and though we had begged him to consider a minor in business, he had gone for women’s studies instead. Women’s studies, he informed us at the time, was a brilliant way to meet girls. “Are you having some sort of breakdown?”

“I might be.” My robe was shaking.

“If you feel like I don’t appreciate you, well,” he said, rubbing his eyes, “it’s because I don’t. I will again, but not until at least ten, okay?” He put his arm over the dog and pulled him in tight like a wide receiver ready for a forty-­yard run. “Please pull the shades on your way out.”

That was when I turned and looked in the mirror over his dresser. There I was, my hair dripping and uncombed but recently touched up for gray, my cheeks bright red from a combination of fear and rosacea. I was back, so completely and utterly returned it was as if I had never been gone at all.

...

Maybe it was just some weird aphasia, except instead of a temporary loss of speech I had experienced a selective loss of vision. As I dried my hair and put on the little bit of makeup that I associated with my own human dignity, I stared hard at my reflection, checking for any fuzziness or missing spots. Even after I was dressed I kept going back to the mirror to make sure I was still there. I couldn’t spend more than two minutes away. Sure, I could see my hands, my legs, but was my face still there? My neck? Back I would go to check again. Spending a morning staring at oneself was hardly the short path to peace of mind. It was the mirror, after all, that had driven Snow White’s stepmother around the bend with its unrelentingly frank assessment of the situation. Soon my worry about invisibility had been replaced by a cataloguing of flaws: my eyelids were drooping in a weird way that made my entire face look asymmetrical, and the crease between my eyebrows made me look as if I had been struck in the forehead by a very small ax. And my mouth! Where had my lips disappeared to over the years? I preferred the picture of myself I kept in my imagination, the one in which my hair could still be braided into a thick rope and I was in the neighborhood of thirty-­five.

I went across the street and three houses down to the Kemptons’. I knocked on Gilda’s door.

“Have you ever noticed that my eyelids are uneven?” I asked her. I was standing on the porch. There was a cold wind prying the last of the red leaves off the maple tree in her front yard and I shivered. That time of year thou mayst in me behold when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang.

“Come inside,” she said. She put her hands on my shoulders and moved me around in the light as if she was having trouble seeing me.

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold. Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

“I need to get my glasses,” she said.

Gilda and Steve Kempton had five children, all of them boys, and their house always had the vague aura of a summer camp, even though four of those boys were technically grown and three of them were actually gone. There were always helmets and hockey sticks in the front hallway, always an odd number of tennis shoes on the stairs. In the summer the floors had a vaguely sandy crunch to them even though we lived in Ohio, and nowhere near a beach. Benny, the baby, was in high school now, and Miller, who was the second to the oldest, had boomeranged straight back into his childhood bedroom the day after graduating from college and had been there for more than a year. I believed that it was Miller who set the bad example for Nick.

Gilda came back with a pair of readers and, looking through her glasses, gave my eyelids serious consideration. Then she put her thumb between my eyebrows and made little circles over the crease there. “I tried that,” I said. “It doesn’t go away.”

“Botox.” She tapped her own forehead, a smooth lake of tranquillity.

“I did that once. You know I don’t like needles. And anyway, the wrinkles grew back.”

She shrugged and looked again. “You don’t really notice it,” she said, but not in a way that made me feel better. Gilda and I had been friends for twelve years, ever since we’d moved into the neighborhood. It was her honesty that I counted on. If I needed a comforting lie I was perfectly capable of telling one to myself. She was walking into the kitchen, stepping over a couple of tennis racquets, and I followed her. She put the kettle on.

“So if you aren’t interested in needles, why are you making an assessment of your face? Your only two options are to fix it or live with it. There’s no point in just beating yourself up about it.”

“The thing is,” I started tentatively, not knowing how to talk about what I wasn’t really sure had happened, “this morning—­” I stopped.

Gilda, that source of constant motion, stopped as well. “This morning,” she said. I could tell she was thinking I was about to give her bad news.

“I was invisible.”

Gilda turned and got down two cups from the cabinet beside the sink, let out a dispirited sigh, and then dropped a tea bag in each of those cups. “I hate that.”

Something in my spine caught a small jolt of current and straightened to attention—­it was understanding, recognition. It was everything I was hoping for. “It’s happened to you?”

Gilda lowered her chin and looked up at me, a move I now realized was meant to stand in for a knitted brow. “Are you kidding me? Except for a very few breakout moments, I’ve been invisible since the new millennium. The boys can be looking at naked women on Facebook and they don’t so much as twitch when I walk into the room. I can ask Steve what time he wants to eat dinner and he keeps on texting like I wasn’t even there. A woman wheels her cart right in front of mine and cuts into the checkout lane, a car cuts me off in traffic, I wave at the waiter and he’s looking at the wall behind my head. It’s just the plight of women after a certain age. No one can see you. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about that girl I used to be, how I could always get a table in a busy restaurant. I could raise my hand on a street corner in New York in the pouring rain and get a taxi.” She shook her head at such an impossible memory. “That’s just gone now. We’re nothing but the ghosts of our former selves.”

“True,” I said. I had forgotten the feeling of going into a very busy restaurant at eight on a Friday night and getting a table without a reservation. “But that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“So what are you talking about?”

“Invisibility. Literal invisibility.” I sounded less than certain. Gilda and I told each other pretty much everything but I found these words were heavy in my mouth.

“You mean where you walk right up to someone and it’s as if they can’t even see you?”

“No, where I look in the mirror and can’t see myself.” There was nothing metaphorical about it.

“Does this have to do with Arthur?”

“He wasn’t even there. It was after he’d left for work.”

“No, but I mean he’s been very busy lately. You’ve said it yourself. You hardly ever see him.”

“Which is not the same thing as hardly ever seeing myself. Do you think this is hysterical invisibility? I’m developing some strange new disease in an effort to get the doctor’s attention? The only way I could get Arthur’s attention, medically speaking, is with a bad case of cradle cap.”

“He can’t help how busy he is,” Gilda said defensively. “He’s busy because he’s good. He’s busy because everybody loves him.”

Everybody including Gilda. Not long after we’d moved into the neighborhood, Arthur dislodged a grape from Benny’s windpipe at a Fourth of July party and saved his life. Arthur had noticed that Benny, who was only three at the time, was standing stock-­still in the middle of a crowd of adults, just standing there, not even blinking. Arthur said later he knew something was wrong because he’d never seen Benny stand still before. He grabbed the boy’s ankles and, flipping him over in midair, shook him like a pillowcase. Out popped the grape, which was followed by the enormous wail the grape had blocked in his throat. With a little cajoling, Benny got over the shock of it almost immediately. Gilda never did. “This has nothing to do with Arthur,” I said.

“Okay.” Gilda tilted her head slightly to the side. “So can you see yourself now?”

“Of course I can see myself now.” I held out my arm to show us both. “I’m not delusional, at least I don’t think I am. I got out of the shower this morning and for a few minutes I couldn’t see myself.”

“I don’t think I’d mind that,” Gilda said.

I threw up my hands. “I swear to you this isn’t coming around to a punch line. I can’t explain what happened, but it did happen, and then it was over. I guess I was just wondering . . .”

“Wondering what?”

“If it ever happened to you.”

The kettle let out its high-­pitched wail and Gilda rescued it from the flame and filled our cups. “No,” she said tentatively. “Not if we’re talking about a lack of physical matter. Have you had your eyes checked?”

I shook my head.

“I wonder if French women ever feel invisible,” she said, deftly trying to steer the subject away from the personal and toward the cultural. “People are always talking about how chic and secure French women are, but if the twenty-­year-­old Brigitte Bardot passed the seventy-­six-­year-­old Brigitte Bardot on the street, there isn’t going to be any contest as to who gets noticed.”

That was when I came to the conclusion that feeling invisible was something that could be talked about for hours on end but being invisible was a conversational no-­man’s-­land. I blew on my tea and looked at my watch. “I should probably get to work. I’ve got a column due. Is it okay if I just take the cup with me?”

“Of course you can take the cup, but I haven’t been any help at all.” Gilda sounded genuinely sorry.

I waved her off. “I’m fine,” I said. “I just needed to talk.” In truth, maybe Gilda had been more of a help than she had realized. Maybe I had suffered a brief bout of insanity and by not acknowledging it, she was allowing me to keep my dignity. I had no real idea what had happened. I just had a strange, unsettled feeling, like you do when you’re out and think you might have left the oven on or the windows open in the rain. Later, of course, I found out this feeling was all part of it. Some of the women in the group call it an invisibility hangover, like every cell you’ve got has had a tiny whiplash from coming back into focus again.

When I got back to the house, Nick was sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal, and Red, who didn’t even turn his face in my direction when I came in, was staring up at him. Nick always let Red lap up the last of the milk when he was finished with it. “You’re stirring awfully early,” I said without thinking.

“Thank you very much for that,” he said. “What was up with you this morning anyway?”

“This morning?” I asked, not wanting to do it all again.

“Do you see me?” Nick said, mimicking my panic in an unbecoming manner. He was working the crossword puzzle in the Times. His father must have been in a rush this morning. Since Nick had come home, Arthur usually remembered to hide the arts section so that he wasn’t left with the pathetic puzzle in the local paper.

“My contact lens was stuck,” I said, coming up with a slightly plausible lie. “I think I’m going to have to stop wearing them. My optometrist says I have dry eyes.”

“You don’t wear contact lenses, and even if you did, what would that have to do with whether or not I can see you?” He filled in an answer with a ballpoint pen. It was the Thursday puzzle. Not easy.

“I said, ‘I can’t see.’ I’m sorry. I just panicked for a minute.”

“You didn’t say, ‘I can’t see.’ You said, ‘Can you see me?’ There’s a difference. Mid-­arthropod, six letters.”

“Do you have anything?”

“Starts with T.”

The T was what I needed because the word that had instantly come to mind was Lorax, a tufted Dr. Seuss character. “Thorax,” I said. “And about the rest of it, if you could just chalk it up to early dementia I would be grateful.”

Nick wrote in the word and seeing how nicely it fit, he smiled. My firstborn child had such a lovely smile it could be given out as a gift. “If you don’t ask me whether or not I found a job today, I won’t ask you if you’re losing your mind.”

“It’s a deal,” I said.

Then Nick put his cereal bowl on the floor, a few corn flakes floating in a thin lake of milk, sending Red into a frantic, lapping ecstasy. Everybody was happy.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What do you think of Clover’s life early on in the book? Is it one with which you can identify? Do you think her relationship with her husband is normal? What about with her children? She seems outwardly happy and well adjusted; do you think that she is?

2. When Clover realizes she is invisible, she is frightened. How might you feel if you became invisible and your family didn’t notice? Or do you think they would? Her best friend, Gilda, notices immediately. What does that say to you regarding family vs. friends? If you were Clover, do you think it would be the same?

3. Do you think Arthur is a normal (if overworked) husband? Do you think he truly loves Clover and is invested in his children? His job?

4. Clover makes an appointment with a doctor to attempt to understand her condition, yet the doctor does not notice that she is invisible or even really listens to her. Have you ever suspected that a physician (or person in authority) wasn’t really listening to you? How did you react?

5. What do you think precipitated Clover’s act of bravery in the parking lot? Have you ever wanted to do something like that but were afraid?

6. Finding a group of women who were also invisible was of huge benefit to Clover. Have you ever been a part of a support group, whether formal or informal? What did you get out of that experience?

7. Nick is two years out of college, back living at home, and depressed. Can you identify with his situation? Do you have family in similar situations? Do you think he’s overreacting?

8. Clover’s mother-in-law, Irene, is a font of wisdom. What do you think of her statements, “invisibility can be an impediment or a power depending on how you decide to use it” and, “perhaps that’s the lesson in all of this, not who can see you, but who you can learn to see?”

9. Even though Arthur doesn’t see Clover, their romantic life becomes in some ways more powerful. Why?

10. Why do you think Clover’s day on the school bus with Lila was so meaningful to both of them?

11. What was your reaction to Evie’s character? Is she spoiled or merely in the solipsism of great beauty and youth? How do you think this compares to Vlad and his relationship to his invisible mother?

12. Do you think that Clover’s day in Arthur’s office helped her understand his situation and the daily stresses he faces? Have you ever wanted to see what the daily life of your significant other was like?

13. Do you identify with Clover’s experience of invisibility? What do you feel was the most important lesson Clover’s invisibility taught the rest of the characters?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(13)

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(5)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Read sample

    I can't believe there is not more dicussion on this topic and book....where are all the fifty something women?? Oh thars right...you are there...just can't see you..

    As a 55 yr old woman...this strange shroud of invisibility has been coming for years...even if the book does not offer a factual account...we all have to admit..there is some merit to this topic...

    Did anyone tell us?? That at approx. 50ish, the husband who at least attempted to be in good standing and present is no longer caring whether you would like more time with him...no one told me in spite of keeping myself appearance pleasing that the distance would come..

    And what about strangers...it is getting pretty bad when you enter a building at the same time while waiting for an elevator with another woman your age, and get completely ignored after commenting on the sweltering heat...now there was a topic you could get anyone to comment on...when you could be seen, but now you are invisible...she stands there and instead of saying..."yes, i agree" she starts to look down and shovel through a handful of envelopes which seem an odd thing to be holding as if you are going to hand them to someone...

    We both go to the third floor of the building, where the allergy shots are given...and if i did not think she was rude before...i do now...because of her lack in common courtesy...everyone knows that if someone gets on the elevator first, you allow them opportunity to get off first...at designated floor...this rude and much more unattractive 50 something woman jumps in front of me to get out before i do...stands in line to get her shot...

    Now the question ...was she a sociopath or narcissist who did not have courteous intentions...or did she really see me? I truly felt like someone in a sixth sense film with bruce willis...invisible!!

    Another oddity...she did not give her stack of envelopes to receptionist...i watched...when she sit down...she no longer had them...could holding envelopes appearing to be distracted her ruse to avoid people in general? She acted like those envelopes revealed a secret she needed to get to in order to take her next breath...when she was waiting for the elevator..

    My point...if someone does not want to see you, they won't...even if you are laying next to them...we make choices in life..i have chosen to never ignore anyone sharing airspace with me at that moment...i notice everything...even the paperwork you are holding...you will get a response out of me...i am present and so are you...

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    A disappointment

    I loved Ms. Ray's previous work, but hard as I tried did not enjoy this book. The comparison of women who "feel" invisible vs. actually becoming invisible is ridiculous. It was just too far-fetched for my taste. It couldn't happen and even the most negligent family, friends or strangers would notice there was something amiss. Glad I borrowed this from the library.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Well written book

    I picked this book as part of my commitment to the Oprah facebook site, and I was not disappointed by it. It's a fun story about unintended medical side effects, and I think most housewives would agree that there are times when we feel invisible, too. It might make a good book for a book club discussion, too.
    I enjoyed it and will look for other books by this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    See What Should Be

    This is a great metaphor for any woman who has felt invisible at some point in time or some place in space. But anyone who has ever wanted to be invisible will relate to Clover. Going with her on her journey is discomfiting and fun in the same instant. And discovering how those around her come to grips with their hopes leaves the reader mighty satisfied.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2013

    Calling Invisible Women is the fifth novel by American author, J

    Calling Invisible Women is the fifth novel by American author, Jeanne Ray. Like many women in their fifties holding down jobs and looking after families, Clover Hobart has often felt like she’s invisible. Then, one day she wakes up to find she actually is. Invisible. However, no-one seems to notice; not her paediatrician husband, Arthur, not her adult children, Nick and Evie. In fact, only her best friend Gilda actually realises something is wrong. But quite by accident, Clover discovers other women with her predicament, and learns how this has happened. This insightful novel is about perception and self-image; about perspective and being brave and jumping back into life; about workplace discrimination; about multi-national drug companies and cover-ups; about supporting each other and deciding to fight like Goliath even when you are David. Ray touches on health kicks and magic bullets and boarding planes. I expect sales of Rive Gauche may well increase thanks to Ray’s latest perceptive, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny offering.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Quite possibly one of the best books I've read in months!  What

    Quite possibly one of the best books I've read in months!  What would you do if suddenly you woke one morning to discover you were invisible.  Not metaphorically.  Physically invisible.  Your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers couldn't see you anymore.  Clover faces this situation with courage and pluck, meeting with a group of other local women who were also invisible.  And together they launched an investigation into the cause of their plight.  As the story progresses, answers are found, friendships are forged, and invisibility becomes a power more than a disability.  In invisibility comes a bravery many of the women may not have possessed otherwise, and together they waged a battle against the pharmaceutical company that was at fault for their condition.  While the story does not wrap its conclusion with a neat bow, tying up all loose ends, it is satisfying.  An outstanding read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2013

    This book works on many levels. It's the kind of book that warr

    This book works on many levels. It's the kind of book that warrants a book club discussion. Yes, the premise of actual invisibility might be far-fetched, but it brings out so many questions about our seeming invisibility when we reach a certain age. The storyline about the unintended consequences of the medication causing actual invisibility just lends a way to offer some very humorous twists in the story. I've recommended this book to numerous friends. It's worth the read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Creative, exciting & fun

    What a great writer! A new, fun way to approach women! Light reading that makes you smile.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Entertaining!

    An imaginative, yet realistic read. I appreciate the LOL scenes the author created. It's a good balance between a "light read" and a book that touches on the issues of women who are middle-aged. Jeanne Ray continues to not disappoint.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 19, 2013

    Enjoyable Read

    Fun book to read. It's hard to find books about "women of a certain age" that doesn't involve romance, but shows tenacity and growth of an individual. Enjoyable and surprise ending.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 12, 2013

    Brings the metaphor of invisibility to life!

    What a creative romp into the real life experience of women as we age!
    Ray shines a positive light onto the potential power of life's curve ball by reminding us to see or use the advantages. Women will delight in her humor and drive; men will delight in finding new ways to see women united in solidarity taking on their oppressors.
    MBD NY

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    Fun read

    Quick and witty

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Fun!

    It was a funny read with a zanny premis that I couldn't believe could remain fresh for the entire story. A charmer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I loved this quirky, silly, outlandish book! There is the seriou

    I loved this quirky, silly, outlandish book! There is the serious theme of how over time, we as women, begin to feel invisible to those around us. We are simply the driver, shopper, cook, walker of dogs, etc.. We are too busy for deep friendship and even when we are with friends, it can feel superficial. The author touches on this in a very fictional way that has the reader nodding and laughing all at the same time.

    I highly recommend this book...just be sure to clear your mind of any need for this to be plausible. Enjoy it for the fun story that it is.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 30, 2012

    Humorous and Poignant

    This humorous, yet poignant story about a woman becoming invisible makes you first wonder whether it's her imagination or whether it's real. While examining the typical middle-age crisis that many women face, the story also takes a literal bend which oddly works. I recommend this especially to women who once felt visible to the world, but now through aging and losing youthful appeal, have found that not only they have disappeared in other's eyes, but have disappeared in their own as well. A sweet and I think, fast read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2012

    Fun and clever

    I enjoyed it. I am a 30 something wife and mother and yet can definitely relate! Yes, it requires some degree of "suspension of disbelief", but it's fiction folks!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Loved it

    If you read it as a tongue in cheek book it is great. A fun read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    not good to bad

    The idea for the plot is different. There were some good points made by some of the characters. The ending is very disappointing. I would not recommend this book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    Fresh, original premise -- a fun read

    This is a frothy, well-paced story that zips along from beginning to end. No slow parts. I finished in less than twenty-four hours and I never get through a book that fast. Jeanne Ray uses just the right, light touch that enables the reader to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise. Sympathetic characters, absurd situations and tongue-in-cheek humor abound. Ray has a real knack for first-person narration, and the natural ease in her voice serves the story well here. The only thing I didn't like in the book was the self-absorbed daughter, Evie. A redeeming quality or two would have made her more tolerable. The male teenagers and the husband, on the other hand, came across as far more likeable, a nice thing to see in a "women's issue" novel. As for those reviewers who couldn't buy into the notion of physical invisibility --hello people, this is fiction. Get an imagination!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2012

    A book that makes one much more aware that over time women do be

    A book that makes one much more aware that over time women do become
    taken for granted and to a point become invisible to strangers and loved
    ones. But the storyline being that we are to imagine that those around
    us would not notice if we were suddenly missing our heads made me think
    at times that I was reading a book for children, especially during the
    bank robbery and the trying on of rings at Tiffany's. The book lacks
    the compassion that could have made it more heartfelt, believable, and a
    worthwhile read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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