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Invisible: A Novel

Invisible: A Novel

3.8 16
by Carla Buckley

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Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Carla Buckley’s Invisible is a stunning novel of redemption, regret, and the complex ties of familial love.
Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable—Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home


Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Carla Buckley’s Invisible is a stunning novel of redemption, regret, and the complex ties of familial love.
Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable—Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home, not to see or speak to her sister for sixteen years.
When she receives the news that Julie is seriously ill, Dana knows that she must return to their hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota, to try and save her sister. Yet she arrives too late, only to discover that Black Bear has changed, and so have the people in it.
Julie has left behind a shattered teenage daughter, Peyton, and a mystery—what killed Julie may be killing others, too. Why is no one talking about it? Dana struggles to uncover the truth, but no one wants to hear it, including Peyton, who can’t forgive her aunt’s years-long absence. Dana had left to protect her own secrets, but Black Bear has a secret of its own—one that could tear apart Dana’s life, her family, and the whole town.

“Beautifully written and unsettling . . . leaves you with a lingering sense of dread long after you close the last page.”—Chevy Stevens

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From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beautifully written and unsettling . . . leaves you with a lingering sense of dread long after you close the last page.”—Chevy Stevens
“Family secrets, environmental crises, complex characters, and lyrical, thoughtful prose: What’s not to love here? This richly layered story will remain with you well past the final page.”—Emilie Richards, author of One Mountain Away
“Carla Buckley once again reveals the frightening things we can’t see. Invisible made me question everything surrounding us in our homes and our neighborhoods. Do we really know what we’re touching? Do we even know our own families? This chilling book reminds us of what’s important in our lives.”—Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt



It’s a great line to stop guys from coming on to you in a bar. They ask, So what do you do for a living? They expect to hear, I’m in sales or I’m a paralegal. If I’m wearing my black boots with the stacked heels and maybe some lipstick, they might push me into the lawyer category, or the owner of a little boutique. They never expect to hear the truth. I blow up buildings, I say, and sip my wine. After hearing that, they usually back away a little. Which is good. I don’t like to be crowded.

The crowd that morning was staying far away, lined up all along the twelve-­foot chain-link fence encircling the lot, their faces curious and belligerent, the police forming an uneasy barricade between them and me and the building I was going to destroy. A hand-­printed banner danced above their heads. You might not think it, but bringing down a building can be a controversial thing. People don’t like change. It makes them worry about what’s headed their way next, and whether it’ll be any worse than what was there before.

Dingy clouds were doing a slow roll along the horizon. Chicago in mid-­May could be unpredictable. “How far away does that look?” I asked my foreman.

Ahmed squinted. “I’d say we got a couple hours, maybe three.” His broad face was washed in early morning light.

The guy was a wizard when it came to reading the weather. If he said two, maybe three, we’d be standing in a downpour come four. Two hours was good, three better. “We might just make it then.”

He nodded. “Have you heard from Halim?”

Another worry. “Halim will be here.” Of course he would, but he hadn’t answered any of the six calls I’d placed to him that morning. As decorous as my partner was, he could also be a player. He loved blondes, and Chicago was full of them. But he’d never crossed that line with me. I wouldn’t have stuck around if he had.

A shout. Something sailed through the air and clattered onto the cement near my feet. A beer can. A policeman moved forward and the onlookers jostled.

Ahmed curled his lip in disgust and kicked it with his boot.

“Least it wasn’t a bomb,” I told him.

“Don’t say these things.” Ahmed looked stricken.

Implosions are wrapped tight in superstition: wind the detonation wire clockwise; rap the front doorjamb before entering; wear the same pair of boots from the beginning of a job until its completion, and if a lace breaks, replace it with a borrowed set. Most of all, don’t ever joke about explosives, especially when hundreds of pounds of the stuff lie only fifteen feet away.

My cell phone vibrated. Halim? But no, the caller ID read private caller. The caller had tried earlier, around six-­thirty, and I was tempted to flip it open and let off a little steam at some telemarketer no doubt waiting to chirp good morning on the other end. But chances were it would just be a recorded call and it would take ten seconds for me to disconnect. Seconds I couldn’t afford to waste, not with that storm roiling toward us. Fitting the hardhat onto my head, I told Ahmed, “I’m starting the walk-­through.”

A troubled look. “Without Halim?”

He didn’t think I could do it. Didn’t matter. I was still the boss, even if it sometimes felt in name only. “Start clearing the site.”

The broad marble steps of the gracious old building seemed to sag beneath my boots. The old girl was ready to come down. She’d been up for a long time and weathered more than her share of storms. She was ready to go.

Shoving aside the heavy wing of fabric draped around the lower floors, I stepped over the threshold into pungent darkness. The interior sprang into view beneath the beam of my Maglite. Hard to believe hundreds of families once lived here, walked these floors. Everything that could have made the place a home had been yanked down and hauled away: walls, ceilings, floors, and window glass. All that remained was bare concrete, rafters, and the skeletal outlines of two staircases. The air hung heavy and blue, dust spiraling lazily down from the open ceiling in ghostly strands like Mardi Gras beads. I spun on one heel, seeing past the empty windows and crumbling columns, hearing the mumbles of long-­ago residents, the babies’ cries, and the laughter. The old girl held her breath, waiting. I’m coming, I told her. Hold on.

The clop of boots. Halim emerged from the shadows, his slim frame tidy in navy chinos and a crisp white workshirt. “Sorry I’m late,” he told me. “I got an overseas call from my brother.”

I looked at him with both relief and annoyance. So not a pretty girl he’d met at a bar, but something far, far worse. “How much this time?” I asked him.

He pursed his lips. He wanted to tell me it was none of my business how much money he lent his loser brother, but in point of fact, it was my business. Very much so, ever since we pooled our resources and started Down to Earth three years before.

“Don’t worry.” He glanced around. “We should get started, eh? What with the storm moving in.”

“A thousand? Two thousand?” The business account only had three and change, but the frown on his face told me plainly that it now held nothing. “Halim.” I felt a pinch of fear. “Tell me.”

“A temporary setback,” he said. “We finish this job and all will be fine.”

It was the last time. Tomorrow morning, I’d be meeting with the bank manager to make sure any checks drawn on our business account in the future required both our signatures. But there was nothing I could do about it now. “I’ll take the eastern half.”

No railing along the staircase, the bottom riser chewed to rubble to discourage trespassers, the support walls smashed to pieces. Testing my weight with each step, I climbed to the twenty-­sixth floor, winding past the narrow Chicago streets, to the furled tops of the trees, until finally the sleepy skyline spread before me. A month ago, I would have been gasping. Today, I made it in one long trek, with only my thigh muscles protesting the effort.

Streamers of sunlight spooled through the empty windows. Amid the drab grays and browns were daubs of neon yellow paint marking the load-­bearing columns, and dense cobwebs of yellow, pink, and orange tubing. Colorful and deadly. I traced the lines up to the crevices we’d chipped into the columns and then packed with dynamite. The connections looked good. Untouched.

Halim walked toward me from the other direction, and we exchanged places silently, our worlds shrunk to fluorescent strands, electrical tape, and metal clips. We descended two floors to the next dynamited level.

The buzz of a jet overhead, the shrill blast of a policeman’s whistle below. The protestors were growing more belligerent. Great. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, outracing the storm. Shouts sailed up.

Again, Halim and I crisscrossed paths; again, we retraced each other’s steps.

Outside, a Bobcat started with a rumble.

Halim waited on the ground floor. “We’re behind schedule.”

And whose fault was that? I glanced at my phone and saw I’d missed another call from private caller. We’d used up one of Ahmed’s hours.

“You finish here,” Halim told me, “and I’ll check the basement level.” He descended the crumbling stairs.

Stepping over a latticework of detonation cord, I ran my flashlight beam over the connections. A water leak had sprung up from somewhere—­a pipe only recently turned off—­and a shallow pool had collected in one corner, scummy with dust.

The Bobcat’s roar stopped. In the sudden silence, I heard the slow plink of water splashing metal, and something else.

The noise didn’t repeat itself. Rats usually flee buildings about to be demolished, driven by some fierce primordial instinct that tells them D-­day is at hand, but maybe one had just gotten the message. I turned, sweeping my flashlight beam across the uneven floor.

A crumpled Styrofoam cup, boot prints stamped in the dust, a balled-­up lump of rust-­colored cotton splotched with paint. Light sparkled across a smooth surface. Glass. I frowned. All the glass had already been removed.

My walkie-­talkie buzzed.

“Ready?” Halim’s voice.

I depressed the Talk button. “Just about.” I held up my flashlight, squinting into the shadows.

An empty bottle of Budweiser glinted back from the gloom beside a wall brace. Dust-­free, it couldn’t have been there long. How had we missed the bottle last night? The broken brick lying beside it must have been the source of the noise I’d heard.

Footsteps echoed. Halim strode toward me. “Showtime.”


The crew gathered as Halim issued final instructions. There was confidence in his every gesture; his stance was easy yet authoritative. “Countdown in fifteen minutes.” He broke up the group with a clap of his hands.

A plastic bag skittered across the pavement. A uniformed police officer stood beside a small makeshift enclosure composed of sandbags. He nodded. “All yours.”

I dialed the prearranged number. “Stop the El,” I told the operator.

“I’ll tell them,” she answered.

Overhead, a police helicopter swept by, searching rooftops for hidden onlookers. Television crews clustered a safe distance away. A covey of birches stood on the northwest corner, swaddled in geotextile fabric and shivering in the gusting wind. The dust and debris could be carried for miles; all of Chicago could be affected. “Think we should hold off?” I asked Halim, uneasy.

“Just run the monitor afterward and make sure to download the readings.”

It had been my idea, a way to issue a preemptive strike against possible lawsuits. Running the air-­sampling monitor wouldn’t stop the dust from spreading, but I didn’t argue. I was as eager as Halim to finish the job.

He picked up the blasting machine, a steel box with two buttons connected to the lead line, and held it out. Did he want me to hold it for him? He smiled, seeing my confusion. “This one’s yours,” he said. “You’ve earned it.”

I’d never initiated the blast. Never. Halim was the expert; I was the trainee. But there it was, the small box that signaled I had finally broken through the final barrier. Automatically, I folded my fingers around the machine and held it tight. Halim couldn’t pry it away from me now, even if he wanted to.

He held up his walkie-­talkie. “All clear.”

A round of “Clear’s” sounded from the crew bosses.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Beautifully written and unsettling . . . leaves you with a lingering sense of dread long after you close the last page.”—Chevy Stevens
“Family secrets, environmental crises, complex characters, and lyrical, thoughtful prose: What’s not to love here? This richly layered story will remain with you well past the final page.”—Emilie Richards, author of One Mountain Away
“Carla Buckley once again reveals the frightening things we can’t see. Invisible made me question everything surrounding us in our homes and our neighborhoods. Do we really know what we’re touching? Do we even know our own families? This chilling book reminds us of what’s important in our lives.”—Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters

Meet the Author

Carla Buckley lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She serves on the Board of the International Thriller Writers as Vice President of Awards, and is the international bestselling author of Invisible and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a best first novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. 

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Invisible: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Author: Carla Buckley Published by: Bantam Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Rating: 5 Review: "Invisible" by Carla Buckley was some good mystery read. I feel this read would appeal to the women-chit-lit. This novel will have you still thinking of it long after the read. "Invisible" was all over the place with a real complex family relationship to environmental issues that lead to a deep mystery. There will be many twist and turns...along with some surprises as you read through this novel. "Invisible" is told in first person by Dana Carlson (aunt) and in third person from Peyton Kelleher's who was a sixteen year old. "This story is an environmental warning story, as Dana discovers a possible source for the increase in kidney in Black Bear. The potential toxin that Dana uncovers is an interesting topic, and it makes you wonder about the possible dangers of modern products." We find Dana Carlson gets a call from her niece letting her know that her mom, Julie was very ill, Dana rushed back to Black Bear, Minnesota to her sister. Even though Dana had not spoken to Julie for over twenty years, when arriving Dana find that Julie had died.Now, this is where and when all the secrets began to come out and when I say to you that you must pick up this good read to see not only where and when but you will also get all of the what and how in this excellently written read. It is some intriguing read that I wasn't able to put down until the end only to see how these two were telling this to us. Questions that will be asked and answered..... "Is there an environmental problem in the town? Will Peyton find out the truth? Will Joe? What happens with Joe and Dana? Dana's job? Peyton? Will Peyton's grandma ever tell her the secrets? Could this work of fiction be true?" "Invisible" was definitely one of "lost chances, forgiveness, and healing." How does all of this fit together?...well, this is where you will have to pick up the good read to find out. I felt this author did a good job making you wonder if this really could happen. Only leaving me to say Wow, what a read. If you like family drama and secrets with realistic characters .. you have come to the right place for "Invisible" would be a excellent read for you that I would recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a decent read for the most part. But the ending was a complete let down. The whole plot was explained in literally a few sentences at the very end at the ending itself made it feel unfinished. I thought for sure my book was missing a few pages because it felt unfinished. I probably wouldn't recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Summary compared it to Jodi Picoult. I wouldn't say it's that caliber of writing but I did enjoy it. Very abrupt ending.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A powerful book that will keep me thinking for weeks.  This book had everything from sibling relationships to a small town to environmental issues - it all fit together seamlessly.  Dana is the younger sister that leaves the small town after her life is turned upside down.  Peyton is her niece, who is trying to deal with the death of her mom and the return of a long lost aunt.  Together they narrate this book with each having chapters told through their own voices and I think having these two characters tell the story make this book even bigger and better than if it had been told by one or the other.
DiiMI 9 months ago
Need something a little dark, a little unsettling, very tumultuous and yet leaves you feeling a sense of hope rising from the ashes of pain? Carla Buckley’s Invisible is a tale full of secrets, some kept out of a deep love and others kept out of greed and a lack of care for humanity or the world we live in, while others are kept out of shame. The word Truth is a rare commodity in this heart wrenching tale of family, grief, loss and a hidden monster that is killing the people of Black Bear, Minnesota. Two sisters made a pact over sixteen years earlier and until her dying breath, Juli kept that promise and Dana kept her distance from the family she loved. It was the pela form Juli’s daughter, Peyton to an aunt she didn’t’ know that brought Dana home, an unwelcome family member who came too late to save her sister. For Dana, all she could do was follow a hunch as to why people were dying of kidney failure in Black Bear and uncover the truth before more innocent victims lost their lives. What she didn’t expect was the animosity from her niece, a teen drowning in the grief of losing her mother, while looking for a scapegoat to blame. Everyone has secrets and Peyton is lost, alone and discovers she is the reason for those secrets, while Dana discovers her sister’s perfect life was far from the dream status she had envisioned it to be. Powerful emotions, entangled in the sins of the past and the search to discover the root of the illnesses in Black Bear, guilt is the constant partner between the lines of each page. Sometimes lies have a way of crushing all they affect and Carla Buckley sugar-coats nothing in this raw and gritty tale. I received this copy from Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can usually imagine satisfactory endings to stories that crash to a non-conclusion like this, but none of the loose ends mean anything. Liked the book, but am afraid to read anything else of hers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put down. I could find myself in the characters positions. I found the story absorbing and horribly real. Wow
anonomas More than 1 year ago
I think this book would appeal to late teens or young adult.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
Having read Carla Buckley’s newest 2014 release, “Deepest Secrets” (which I thoroughly enjoyed); hence, wanted to read some of her earlier books. Skillfully written, “Invisible”, is a compelling novel about going home, redemption, hidden secrets, regret, and the strong and complex relationships and ties of family. Invisible was a novel very close to my heart, as I am a former Whistleblower, a case which gained national and federal recognition, regarding a publicly traded company’s accounting irregularities, which affected shareholders nationwide, after the Enron fall. When I came forward with this information was fired immediately and blacklisted for years in the marketplace, after being relocated to another state. A huge fan of whistleblower movies (The Firm, The Insider, Erin Brockovich, among others; this novel involved similar circumstances involving wrongful deaths) and company misdeeds - very intriguing! A compelling story of two sisters, Dana (impulsive) and her sister, Julie (nurturing). They are very close, until a secret forces Dana to flee from home, and has no contact with her sister for the next sixteen years. However, when Dana gets the news her sister is seriously ill, Dana feels compelled to return to their home town of Minnesota to help her sister. Dana finds her sister has died and left a teenage daughter, Peyton, not fond of her aunt’s absence, nor her brother in law. There is a mystery to be solved around her death and others within the town. As most cover-ups go, people are kept quiet. No one wants to be involved as others are afraid to speak up. Black Bear, MN has a secret and Dana begins her crusade against nano chemicals, to uncover these secrets; however, she has her own secrets to protect. If these dark secrets come out, could change lives of more than her family, but the entire town and country. The story of a town of secrets with an epidemic kidney disease and questions --could the chemicals, plant, toxins, and environmental problems be the source of concern? Perceived as a troublemaker due to her absence in the town, Dana begins a fight of her life. Peyton, the niece has dreams of being a marine biologist and the book has quite a bit of knowledge about this subject and anecdotes, which were fascinating. I also liked the “Conversation with Carla Buckley,” at the end and her inspiration of Invisible. (I wish all authors would add this insightful section, as so meaningful as a reader). This book is ideal for book clubs and discussion (some wonderful topic are included). Another added feature: A sample of Buckley’s other book: “The Things That Keep Us Here,” which I plan on reading soon. A fast pace and thought provoking page-turner novel regarding a silent killer, deceptions, family drama, and healing of those involved – highly recommend.
nurse97 More than 1 year ago
I so enjoyed this book until the end, i felt is was unfinished and i thought maybe my nook was acting up and i kept  re reading the last 2 pages.  I would of gotten 5 stars if there was an ending. I then started going thru her  books to see if there was a continuance ?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kopsahl More than 1 year ago
Dana has avoided going home to Black Bear, MN for about 16 years. She must return now because her sister, Julie, has lost her battle with kidney disease. Julie has left behind her daughter, Peyton, and her alcoholic father. Dana finds Julie’s diary that shows a connection between the local factory where half the town works and the kidney related illness happening in Black Bear. Dana also runs into her high school sweetheart and her secret is going to be harder and harder to keep if he continues to hang around. Invisible had me confused and intrigued throughout. The main plot line is what intrigued me with the link between nanotechnology and the health scares that the townspeople are having. What confused me were all the other plot lines that were trying to happen. Some were, I felt, unnecessary (such as Dana and her demolition business partner’s issue) and others were just weak. The predictable secret that is eventually revealed didn’t seem like something that would keep two sisters apart (not even talking on the phone). Dana seemed very selfish and I didn’t understand the brother-in-law’s hatred for her because he didn’t know the secret so he shouldn’t have felt threatened. All the characters felt one-dimensional and I as a reader didn’t feel invested in them or the story. (Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not impress with the story and she related to fish characters! overview I didn't like it, to blah for me. I finish the book thinking may be I will get a Twist some where, but I was very disappointed....