The Visibles [NOOK Book]

Overview

The only piece of information that Summer Davis takes away from her years at Peninsula Upper School -- one of the finest in the Brooklyn Heights-to-Park Slope radius, to quote the promotional materials -- is the concept that DNA defines who we are and forever ties us to our relatives. A loner by circumstance, a social outcast by nature, and a witty and warm narrator of her own unimaginable chaos by happenstance, Summer hangs on to her interest in genetics like a life raft, in an adolescence marked by absence: her...
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The Visibles

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Overview

The only piece of information that Summer Davis takes away from her years at Peninsula Upper School -- one of the finest in the Brooklyn Heights-to-Park Slope radius, to quote the promotional materials -- is the concept that DNA defines who we are and forever ties us to our relatives. A loner by circumstance, a social outcast by nature, and a witty and warm narrator of her own unimaginable chaos by happenstance, Summer hangs on to her interest in genetics like a life raft, in an adolescence marked by absence: her beautiful, aloof mother abandons the family without a trace; her father descends into mental illness, haunted by a lifelong burning secret and abetted by a series of letters that he writes to make sense of his feelings; her best friend Claire drifts out of Summer's life in a breeze of indifference, feigned on both sides; and her older brother fluctuates between irrational fury and unpredictable tenderness in an inaccessible world of his making.

Uncertain of her path and unbalanced by conflicting impulses toward hope and escape, Summer stays close to her father while attending college, taking him to electro-shock therapy treatments and trying to make sense of his inscrutable past. Upon his departure for a new and possibly recovered life, Summer begins to question the role of genetics and whether she is destined to live out her family's legacy of despair. But it is only when Summer decides to leave New York herself and put off a promising science career to take care of her great-aunt Stella -- bedrock of the family and bastion of folksy wisdom, irreverent insight, and Sinatra memorabilia in a less-than-scenic part of the Pennsylvanian countryside -- that Summer begins to learn that her biography doesn't have to define her...and that her future, like her DNA, belongs to her alone.

In a novel consumed by the uncertainties of science, the flaws of our parents, and enough loss and longing to line a highway, Sara Shepard is a penetrating chronicler of the adolescence we all carry into adulthood: how what happens to you as a kid never leaves you, how the fallibility of your parents can make you stronger, and how being right isn't as important as being wise. From the backwoods of Pennsylvania to the brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, The Visibles investigates the secrets of the past, and the hidden corners of our own hearts, to find out whether real happiness is a gift or a choice.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her tightly constructed and captivating first adult novel, bestselling YA author Shepard (the Pretty Little Liars series) explores a family's biological and emotional interconnectedness-for better or for worse. When 15-year-old Summer Davis is told by a substitute biology teacher that "DNA makes up everything inside you," and that "nothing else matters... you can't escape your parents and they can't escape you," the silken threads that she imagines link her to her vanished mother become something more like shackles and chains as her mentally ill father's slow decay continues and eventually lands him in an institution. Summer clings to the hope that her father will get better while simultaneously experimenting with ways to escape the gloomy life she's inherited; her path eventually leads to the genetics lab at NYU, but the opportunity to pursue her own dreams is undermined by her father, whose deeply hidden secrets begin to trickle out and eat away at the family's foundation. It's complicated, rewarding and full of heart, and Shepard creates a rich reading experience in shying from simple answers and happy endings. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In the early 1990s, eighth grader Summer Davis cares for her father, Richard. Mentally fragile after a deadly accident during his own teen years, which was triggered by a terrible secret that he can't shake, Richard is destroyed when his wife abandons her family. A trip to Pennsylvania to stay with Richard's quirky Aunt Stella while they bury Richard's mother cracks open the doors to more family secrets and a chance encounter with a boy who makes a powerful impression. Over the years, Summer is left to manage the unmanageable. A brilliant, budding geneticist, she walks away from a once-in-a-lifetime fellowship, not to mention a life of her own, to care for her father until his downward spiral lands him in a sanitarium. Unable to abandon her caregiver role, Summer moves in with Stella, who's dying of cancer, thus bringing Summer full circle with the shards of her heritage and the dangling threads of ambition and thwarted romance. In piercingly beautiful language that tears the heart like shrapnel, Shepard shows us how summer is forced to come to grips with the knowledge that love just might not be a deadly weapon or fatal illness. Outstanding first adult fiction by young adult novelist Shepard (of the "Pretty Little Liars" series).
—Beth E. Andersen

Kirkus Reviews
YA author Shepard's debut adult novel (Pretty Little Liars, 2008, etc.) concerns a girl who feels trapped by her genetics. When an eccentric teacher introduces Summer Davis to the concept of determinate DNA, she becomes obsessed with the idea that her genes permanently tie her to her mentally unstable father and to her mother, who abandoned the family. As her father descends into mental illness, Summer becomes the family caretaker, putting off her career in genetics to care for him and then for her great aunt Stella. The dusty, Wal-Mart town of Cobalt, Pa., where Stella lives, is Summer's father's hometown, and the scene of an emotional secret he has kept from her her entire life. The narrative craftily and eloquently builds the suspense. Even though Summer's inability to step into an independent life can be frustrating, she is a deftly drawn and sympathetic protagonist, and her complications are achingly real. As Summer falls into a routine with the quirky, sagacious Stella-a gem of a character-Stella forces her to emerge from her morose fatalism and start learning that she can choose her own life path. The story follows Summer from a high schooler to a young woman in an emotionally raw narrative arc that does not shy away from difficult questions nor force happy endings. The author also offers a moving portrait of New York City in the pre- and post-9/11 years. A quietly captivating novel.
From the Publisher
"Tightly constructed and captivating....The Visibles is complicated, rewarding and full of heart. Shepard creates a rich reading experience in shying from simple answers and happy endings." — Publishers Weekly

"The Visibles is that rarest of accomplishments — a novel that pulls you into its world, then just...keeps...getting...better. Sara Shepard writes with a grace and ease, but don't be deceived — the big stuff is in here: coming of age; New York in the nineties; the complications of family and friendship; illness and ambition; hope and disappointment and redemption. On every page you'll find an architect's control, a painter's eye, a dancer's elegance, and, best of all, an unending well of generosity. The Visibles is what you want from fiction. Enjoy." — Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children

"Summer Davis's childhood and its mysteries will entrance you. Within moments of beginning to read her story, she will become your closest friend and most trusted confidante. You will want to immerse yourself in her story and grow up with her and discover life with her over and over again." — Ben Schrank, author of Miracle Man and Consent

"Sara Shepard delivers a tight mystery disguised as an arresting coming of age story. Her narrator is sharp, edgy, and sad — just like all the best ones are. Summer Davis sneaks up on you, gets into your head, and stays there." — Amy Bryant, author of Polly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416597735
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2009
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 597,261
  • File size: 395 KB

Meet the Author

Sara Shepard
Sara Shepard received an MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College and is the author of the young adult series Pretty Little Liars, a New York Public Library Notables selection.  She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This is her first adult novel.
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Read an Excerpt


one

She'd been away for just a few days when a biology substitute told my class the most important and wonderful piece of information I'd ever heard.

And then he was pulled out of the classroom forever.

Before this, Mr. Rice had been invisible. The blazers he wore to Peninsula Upper School -- one of the finest schools in the Brooklyn Heights-to-Park Slope radius, to quote the promotional materials -- were never wrinkled, and he always combed his thin, wheat-colored hair into wet-looking lines. There was nothing extracurricular in any of his previous lessons, and with his droning monotone, he made the processes of cell division and photosynthesis and the intricate innards of a paramecium seem far less fascinating than they truly were. But on this particular day, Mr. Rice drew a double helix on the board, tapped it with his piece of chalk, and said, "Everyone, this is what your whole life is all about. It's all you need to know about anything."

The class fell silent. "DNA makes up everything inside of you," he boomed. "It determines what you look like and how you think, if you're going to get sick and whether you're smart or stupid. All you need to know about yourself is right here in this little molecule. Everything about your future, everything about your past. Nothing else matters, and you can't change it. It's passed down, directly, from your parents. You can't escape your parents and your parents can't escape you, as hard as either of you might try. You're tethered to them for life."

Everyone murmured. Jennifer Lake raised her hand, then put it back down quickly. "Even the DNA that may not code for anything," Mr. Rice went on, his voice swooping up and down, the way a hawk climbs and dives. "The stuff that's called junk DNA. It does code for something -- something huge. It codes for the secrets, stuff we never admit to anyone. Once we crack its code, we'll have the answers to everything, but right now I think the only beings that understand junk DNA's secrets are the aliens."

Mr. Rice turned and drew a dish-shaped spaceship on the board. An eggplant-headed alien peeked out the top, and Mr. Rice etched a dotted line beaming right to the helix of DNA. The sweat on his forehead reminded me of the beads of water that gathered on the outside of a plastic bottle on a hot day. A couple of boys at the back coughed insults into their fists. But Mr. Rice's words echoed in my mind. This is what your whole life is about. You can't escape your parents and your parents can't escape you.

Before this, our school's principal had missed every other instance of unorthodox teaching, so it was something of a surprise when his face appeared outside the classroom door. Then there was a knock. "Everything okay, Mr. Rice?" He stuck his head in. His eyes glided to the slapdash spaceship on the chalkboard.

I stared at the spaceship, too. There were so many things I worried about. I'd always been a worrier -- my father said worrying was in our blood. Just one week before, one of my most pressing worries had been that I would drop my set of keys to the apartment onto the subway tracks. I was so obsessed with the precarious danger of it, I flirted with the idea of pitching the keys down there willingly, just to know what would happen. But if I did, I would have to sit on the stoop in front of our apartment building, keyless, until my mother returned home from work. I didn't want to imagine what she would say, the pinched, disappointed shape her face would take.

I used to worry about the lone gray hairs I often saw sprouting from my mother's head, terrified that she was showing signs of advanced and debilitating age. When she started to shut herself in the bathroom for hours at a time, talking quietly on the phone, I worried that she was hiding a horrible sickness from the rest of us. I pictured a devastating disease ripping her apart, her skin peeling off in curls, her heart blackening. When we received a catalogue from the Vitamin Shoppe in the mail, I put it by her plate at breakfast, convinced its glossy pages contained a miracle pill. But she pushed the catalogue aside. My father absently flipped through it instead, commenting on the high price of spirulina tablets and chromium picolinate diet pills. In all my what-if scenarios, I never envisioned my father physically ill. The dark hours he spent under the covers were due to something different, not sickness.

What had happened to my family a few days before this was something else entirely -- something far bigger than anything I'd even dared to consider. But Mr. Rice's words made me think that maybe I didn't have to worry about it after all.

The substitute's shoulders slumped as he walked into the hall with the principal. As soon as the door shut, one of the fist-coughing boys snorted. "What a loser." Someone threw a balled-up piece of notebook paper at the alien spaceship. One by one, like dominoes falling over, everyone began to talk, to forget. I was the only one who didn't laugh.

The following day, when my father told me that Claire Ryan and her mother were coming over to visit in a few minutes, I was struck dumb. Just because I was friends with someone a couple years ago didn't mean we liked each other now. I thought my father understood this.

"Claire?" I shrieked. "Are you sure? Why?"

"Her mother wants to talk to me, that's why," my father explained. "And she's bringing Claire because she thought it would be nice for you two to see each other again."

The doorbell rang. I looked at my father. He was wearing plaid slippers and had the same Pfizer T-shirt he'd been wearing for days. Our house had magazines piled by the fireplace, empty soda bottles on the coffee table, and a crooked, undecorated Christmas tree in the corner, needles all over the floor. It was amazing how messy things could get in just two weeks.

When my father opened the door, Mrs. Ryan looked right -- perhaps a bit thinner, a little ragged, her blond hair not as smoothly blow-dried as it used to be -- but Claire was different entirely. Her eyes were the same, those blue-green eyes everyone used to be so jealous of. As was her thick blond hair, the hair she used to toss over her shoulder so effortlessly, and her pretty, bow-shaped mouth, the mouth every boy wanted to kiss. But her cheeks were puffy. The rest of her body was, too.

I couldn't stop staring. Look at the way her T-shirt clung to her arms! Look at the pink flesh around her neck! I actually gasped, although I tried to pass it off as a hiccup, hitting my chest for effect like I was working something down my esophagus. Everyone knew Claire was back from Paris and her parents were divorcing, but no one knew this.

Mrs. Ryan looked at me. "Hi, Summer. It's so nice to see you again."

She pushed Claire forward. "Say hi, Claire."

"Hi," Claire mumbled.

"How was France?" my father cried. "You two look great. Very European."

He didn't even notice how different Claire looked. My mother wouldn't miss something like this.

My father asked me to take Claire to the roof to show her the view of the city, as if Claire hadn't seen it thousands of times before. Although her view wasn't from this side of the river anymore -- what everyone also knew was that Mr. Ryan was retaining his apartment on Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights, near us, and Mrs. Ryan and Claire were renting a place in a mysterious Manhattan neighborhood called Alphabet City.

"Go on," my father said, making a shooing motion with his hands.

When we reached the roof, Claire looked at the buildings across the East River. Back when we hung out a lot, we had names for each of the buildings we could see from my apartment -- the tall pointy one was Lester, the squat one on the harbor was Boris, and the Twin Towers were Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, the only two characters on the show worth caring about. I glanced at Scooby-Doo -- One World Trade -- and counted twenty-two flights from the top and three windows over. My mother's office. I'd never been inside it, but I was certain there was an official-looking name plaque on her desk, Meredith Heller-Davis. The room was still dark. I squinted hard, willing the light to come on.

Claire ran her finger along the edge of the charcoal grill. There was rust on it, but we used to cook out on the roof a lot. All four of us, my mother, father, my brother Steven, and me, we would come up here and point at the boats and buildings and eat hamburgers. My father used to bring up a boom box and put on a bunch of old jazz tapes, even though my mother preferred music that, as she put it, "actually made sense." When it was time to eat, my dad turned his back and whipped up a condiment that he said was his Aunt Stella's Famous Special Sauce. Once, I remarked that it tasted like nothing but mayo and ketchup mixed, and my mother snorted. "Stella probably got the idea from Burger King," she said with a laugh. My father chewed his burger. "Stella's a good woman," he said stiffly, not that it was in question.

Later, my mother and I would watch the boats on the East River through binoculars, making up stories about some of the yachters. The man in the sailboat named Miss Isabelle still lived on his parents' estate. The man in the yacht with a naked woman figurehead had made his fortune by patenting the long plastic wand used to separate one person's groceries from another on the belt -- how else could a man with such a tacky comb-over own a boat that big? When it was Steven's turn with the binoculars, he always aimed them at the buildings across the water, watching the people still in their offices, working. "What do you think they're doing in there?" he asked out loud on more than one occasion. "I bet they're doing math," my mother or I always suggested, struggling to remain straight-faced. Steven's love of math was an ongoing joke between my mother and me; we were convinced that he slept with his graphing calculator under his pillow.

Claire's belt was fastened on the very largest notch. "So my new neighborhood is weird," she informed me, as if we'd been talking every day. As if I knew everything about her -- which I kind of did. "Last night, I saw a man dressed as a woman."

"How did you know?"

"I looked at his arms."

I'd never been to her new neighborhood before, this mythical Alphabet City. When kids at our school traveled into Manhattan, they went to Soho to shop, or to the Upper East or West Sides to visit grandparents. No one ventured into the East Village, and definitely not to the avenues with the letters.

The Staten Island ferry chugged away from the west side of the island, spewing a contrast of black oil and crisp white waves behind it. "So." Claire tapped the top of the grill. "What's new with you?"

"Not much." I kept my eyes on the ferry. "Same old, same old."

Claire curled her hand around a rusted spatula. "I heard about your mom."

A hot fist knotted in my throat. What did everyone know about my family?

Before I could reply, a noise interrupted us. Claire's mother clomped up to the roof. My father followed. "Time to go," Mrs. Ryan announced.

Claire crossed her arms over her chest. "We just got here."

Mrs. Ryan gave her a tight smile. "We have a lot of things to do today."

"You have a lot of things to do. I don't."

"Well, you have to come with me." Mrs. Ryan's expression didn't falter.

"I can ride the train by myself."

"Seriously. Time to go."

Claire put her head down. "Fuck off."

My father's eyes widened. Mine did, too. I'd never heard Claire swear.

Mrs. Ryan swallowed, then stood up straighter. "Fine." She turned around stiffly and started back down the stairs. My dad and I stood there, waiting to see if Claire would move. She didn't. My father looked blank. He wasn't good at dealing with things like this.

Claire sighed. "Unbelievable," she eventually said, and stood up. The doorway down from the roof to our apartment suddenly looked too narrow for her to fit through.

My father and I walked them to the door. We watched them out the window as they marched toward the subway, not talking, not touching. The wind blew, shaking the plastic bags caught in the trees.

"Did Claire ask you anything about it?" my father murmured out of the corner of his mouth.

I shrugged. "It's none of her business." Or yours, I wanted to add.

"Claire's your best friend."

"Was. Two years ago. For like a second."

He jingled loose change in his pockets. "It's okay to talk about it, you know."

"I don't need to talk about it. There's nothing to talk about."

He looked at me desperately. The jingling stopped.

"There isn't," I repeated.

He pressed his thumbs into his eye sockets, breathed out through his mouth, and made a funny choooo noise, like a train pulling into the last station stop and easing on its brakes. Then he patted my arm, sighed, and went into the kitchen to turn on the TV.

Claire was born one year, one month, and one day before I was. When we were friends for like a second two summers ago, she liked to remind me of this when she held me down and tickled me: "I am one year, one month, and one day older than you," she would say, "so I have full tickling privileges."

She was going into ninth grade and I was going into eighth. We were forced to be around each other a lot that summer because our mothers, who both worked in the events department of Mandrake & Hester, a high-end private bank, had become best friends and rented a share on Long Beach Island. When my mother told me about it, I panicked. Spend eight weeks at the beach with a girl I didn't know? I didn't even like the ocean. And I wasn't very comfortable with strangers.

My mother wanted me to like Claire -- and even more, for Claire to like me -- and at the beach, it didn't seem that hard. Claire's long, ash-blond hair became knotted and caked with sand, and her full, pretty lips were constantly coated with zinc. She wore ratty T-shirts and cutoffs, and she roughhoused, tackling me into the surf. She indulged my need to spy on our mothers, who liked to sunbathe on the beach and read magazines. We had a foolproof system: the lifeguard stand was on a mound by the dunes, and all we had to do was duck behind where the lifeguards hung their towels and our mothers had no idea we were there. They talked about chauvinistic men at the office, places they wished they could visit, the new male teacher at their ballet studio in Tribeca. I waited to see if my mother would talk about me -- maybe in a bragging way, hopefully not in an irritated way -- but she never did.

In July, our mothers signed us up to be junior counselors at the town's day camp. Claire was the only person I spoke to and who spoke to me. Everyone loved Claire, though. She could play the guitar, beat anyone in a race across the sand, and she petitioned the camp to let us build a twenty-person ice-cream sundae, exhausting the kitchen's supplies. Three different junior counselor boys had a crush on her, and kids followed her around as if she were made of cake icing.

That fall, I switched from St. Martha's, a private Catholic school in Brooklyn Heights, to Peninsula Upper School, where Claire went. Claire was the only person I knew who went there, but I certainly didn't know who Claire was. If I had, I wouldn't have acted so juvenile around her, stealing stacks of orange-yellow 500s from the bank when we played Monopoly, constantly playing the beach house's Nintendo even though I barely touched our console at home. And I certainly wouldn't have done that dance when I won the Mega Man Six tournament, the finale of which involved flashing Claire my pink bubble-printed underwear.

On September 3, I barely noticed a tall, beautiful blond girl climb aboard the school bus. "Get your butt over here!" a guy at the back of the bus screamed at her. Other guys made whooing noises. "Where've you been all summer, Claire?" a girl cried.

Claire? I started up, alarmed. The blond girl in the pink shirt and form-fitted jeans took off her pale sunglasses. There were those familiar blue-green eyes, that lush, pink mouth, but her hair was so smooth, her clothes so brand-new. She whipped her head around, as if looking for someone. I slumped down in the seat and pretended to be fascinated by my lunch, a cold can of Coke that had sweated through the brown paper lunch bag, a smushed PB&J crammed into a Ziploc. Finally, Claire walked to the back and fell into a seat with one of the girls.

"Anyone sitting here?" asked an Indian boy who I would later learn was named Vishal. My hand was still saving the empty seat next to the aisle for Claire. I curled it away into my lap and squeezed myself as close to the window as I could.

When the bus pulled up to our school on Lincoln Street, I stood up, but Vishal grabbed my sleeve. "I think we're supposed to let them off first," he said, in his loopy I-didn't-grow-up-here accent. And there they came, Claire among them, shoving each other and laughing, all of them with clear skin and hiking backpacks even though there was nowhere around to hike.

Claire noticed me cowering behind Vishal. "Summer!" She stopped short, holding up the line in back of her. "When did you get on?"

"I was here," I said quietly. "I got on before you."

"Claire, c'mon!" A girl behind her shoved her playfully.

But Claire didn't move. "I didn't see you." She seemed honestly sad.

"I was here." My voice sounded pathetic. Claire noticed, too; her lip stuck out in a pout.

The next day, she made a big point to sit with me on the bus. The day after that, too. The whole time, she was up on her knees facing the back of the bus, laughing with them. "Just go back there," I said on the third day, pressing my body against the cold, drafty window, my knees curled up to my stomach because I'd stupidly chosen the bus seat above the wheel.

"No, it's okay." Claire moved her knees to the front. "So what's been going on with you? Are you liking school? Wasn't I right -- isn't it easy to find your way around?"

"I'm busy reading this," I snapped, staring at the oral report schedule for my American history class. I was to give a report about the Gettysburg Address on November 14, more than two months away.

"Summer." Claire wore shiny lip gloss. Her earrings were dangling silver pears.

"Just go."

Claire shrugged, then monkey-barred from seat to seat, listing sideways when the bus went over bumps. Maybe I should've told her to stay and sit with me. Maybe I should've asked why she hadn't suggested that we both go back and sit with them. But I was afraid what the answer might be -- what fatal flaw of mine prevented her from introducing me around. I told myself I was being charitable, a real friend, letting her go off there alone. I'd given her a gift.

By the time the end of the year rolled around, if Claire and I passed each other in an empty hall, all she might say was, "Steal any Monopoly money lately?" I hated her by then. I'd begun to blame Claire for everything that was going wrong: That, two weeks before, I had woken up and realized I'd peed in the bed. That a window in our front room had been broken, and my father asked my mother to call to have it replaced but she argued that he had fingers, he could call to have it replaced, and it still wasn't replaced because they were at some sort of standoff, and there was still a huge crack in the window, sloppily sealed up with duct tape. That I would probably die an old maid without ever kissing a boy. That my father had begun to spend whole Saturdays in bed, and that my mother didn't take me shopping anymore.

One late May afternoon, I was in keyboarding class, typing line after line of the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy sleeping dog. Two girls in the front row leaned close together. "Claire Ryan is moving to France," one whispered to the other. "They're taking the Concorde."

I typed a whole line of nonsense so it seemed like I wasn't listening. France?

I found out later -- not from Claire -- that her father had taken a position at his company's Paris office. They had rented a three-bedroom apartment in someplace called Montmartre. I wanted to ask Claire about it, or wish her well, or tell her good riddance, but so many people always surrounded her, all the way up to the very end, that I never had the chance.

The excited chatter that Claire was returning from France started a few weeks ago. Claire hadn't told anyone the news herself, but someone's father worked with Mr. Ryan and had found out the details. Claire would be attending Peninsula again, but she would be in tenth grade with me, not eleventh. People nudged Devon Reyes, Claire's old boyfriend, saying that Claire had probably learned a few tricks, living in a country that was so obsessed and open about sex. And me? I didn't have any reaction to the news, and no one asked me for comment. The time we were friends felt as far away as my birth.

But it surprised me that Mr. and Mrs. Ryan were getting a divorce -- Claire had never seemed worried about her parents' marriage. After Mrs. Ryan and Claire left our apartment, I followed my father into the kitchen. "Perhaps Mrs. Ryan just needs a private vacation," I called out to him, as if we'd been dissecting the Ryans' divorce for hours. "You know, some time to herself. And then, after a while, she'll move back into the Pineapple Street apartment, and everything will be fine. It's probably what all couples need, I bet."

My father looked at me for a long time. His eyes were watery. "Maybe," he said, eating from a bag of pretzels, letting loose salt fall to the floor. He tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a sniffle. Copyright © 2009 by Sara Shepard

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Introduction

This reading group guide for The Visibles includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Sara Shepard. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

The Visibles by Sara Shepard is told through the thoughts of one Summer Davis, a brave and bright young woman who places her life on hold to take care of several ailing family members. After the disappearance of her mother, Summer shoulders the challenge of helping her father through his subsequent decline into mental illness. Summer has an interest in science that she inherits from her father and goes into genetics—leading her to question what else of her parents she might have inherited, and whether real happiness is something she can ever achieve. Throughout her life, and the book, Summer is influenced by such personages as a childhood friend, Claire, whose absence makes as much of an impression on Summer as her presence, and a great-aunt, Stella, who personifies with immense charm the best as well as the most terrifying aspects of Summer's father's rural upbringing. The Visibles is a book about dealing with loss and living in the past, how what happens to you as a child never really leaves you, and no matter how old you get you can learn to live, change, and recover. And that life, not unlike the code in our DNA, is determined not by what it is but by what you make of it.

Questions for Discussion

1. When they aregrowing up, how are Summer and Claire similar and different? When they meet years later, how does Summer interpret the changes that each has gone through? Are they more alike later in life? What in Summer draws her to reconnect with Claire?

2. Periodically throughout the book, another voice enters the story. What effect did this have on your reading? When did you realize who the voice was and why it was important?

3. How does the author use the setting — time and place — to frame the story? How do current events throughout the story — the first World Trade Center bombing, the O.J. Simpson trial, 9/11 — shape its course, if at all? What effect do the time lapses throughout the story have?

4. The lower Manhattan skyline appears throughout the novel, both for its parts — the tower Meredith worked in, the nicknames Summer and Claire gave certain buildings — and its whole, especially after 9/11. What do you think the skyline represents to Summer? Does its symbolism change as the novel progresses?

5. In the beginning of the novel, Summer's brother, Steven, barely reacts to their mother's disappearance. The next time we meet him, he is deeply and perhaps irrationally motivated by the first World Trade bombing. Then he is indifferent and unavailable, but by the end of the book, he has changed again. Has he adjusted better than Summer has by the novel's close? What drives his changes and behavior throughout the years?

6. What was the effect of reading the storyline through Summer's eyes? How would it have been different if her father had done all of the narrating? Or Stella?

7. What keeps Summer from feeling completely comfortable with Philip?

8. Has Summer been shaped more by her genes or by her past experiences? Why do you feel that way? In this story, and in life, how important are accidents, genetic and otherwise, to the shaping of a person?

9. "Faith, I thought. Yet again, I turned everything over to faith...My father would eventually practice medicine again. My mother would wash up as something plain and somewhat pitiful, maybe a telemarketer or sales clerk, her drama career hitting a dead-end. We would get through this, and he'd come out a hero" (p. 139). Do you believe that Summer has faith? How does she express her faith? Does her faith change throughout the story?

10. Speaking of Alex, Summer says, "How could he love me? What had I done that was so incredible? I wanted to say that I loved him, too, but I knew I didn't mean it, so the words wouldn't come. I wasn't sure if I was equipped to love anyone" (p. 188). Do you believe that Summer is not "equipped" to love during the course of the book? Why or why not? Is Summer capable of love by the end of the book? If so, what in her changed?

11. Throughout the story several characters — her mother, grandmother, and Stella — leave Summer's life. How does she react to each? How does each loss change the way that she thinks? How does it affect the people around her?

12. When did you discover Summer's father's secret? How did you react? Did you expect it? Do secrets have the capability to shape our lives more than truth? How and why?

13. "I am still me, I told you. We are the worst of ourselves and also the best. They can try and shock it out of you, but it doesn't really go away, not entirely. And that's okay" (p. 253). What does the narrator of this section mean by this? Do you believe it to be true? Why or why not?

14. Whose story is this? Is it Summer's story or is it her father's? Who changes the most from the beginning to the end?

15. The use of ECT was controversial even in its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Earlier than that depression itself was not seen as a disease. How do you think the timing of his illness affected Richard Davis? Do you think he would be treated similarly today?

16. Stella investigates alternative medicine at the end of her life. Are there controversial medical practices today that you believe are worthwhile?

Enhance Your Reading Group

1. There are many websites where you can learn more about your own family history. Check out one such as www.genealogy.com/, www.genealogy.org/, www.familysearch.org/, www.ancestry.com/, or www.archives.gov/genealogy/ and discuss your roots with your book club.

2. To visit or learn more about vacations and artists communities in Vermont visit: http://www.vermontvacation.com/.

3. Memory retrieval and the passing along of family history are central to the book. What is your earliest memory? How did your family pass down family history?

4. There has been much debate about genetics influencing personality and lifestyle choices, especially things like alcoholism and homosexuality. How much do you think genetics influence who we are? Who much do you think experience does?

A Conversation with Sara Shepard

1. How strongly do you identify with each of your main characters? How are you different?

Like Summer, I've always been fascinated with science, especially genetics, and for a while I was certain genetic research was going to be my career. I'm also like Summer in that I would rather things be orderly and explained — I like a sense of control, which is pretty much what Summer struggles with the entire novel. Like Richard, I often live in my head, particularly in my memories. And Stella is a pure amalgam of my mom, my aunts, and my grandfather, Charles Vent. I heard a combination of their voices whenever I wrote her dialogue. It was a joy to write Stella's character — I had thirty years of material to work with. As for how I'm different, I'm not sure I'm as sour and closed-off as Summer sometimes is. It's a defense mechanism for her, of course, but I'm unfortunately too much of a people-pleaser, and am more concerned with making everyone comfortable.

2. Why did you set the book in the place and time that you did? Do you have a special link to rural Pennsylvania or Brooklyn?

I was a teenager and in my early twenties in the 1990s, struggling with many of the same problems as Summer — learning to decipher my emotions, trying to find a balance between choosing my own course and doing what was expected of me, and, essentially, puzzling over what makes the people closest to me tick.

As for the settings, I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, went to college in New York, and ended up moving to Brooklyn not long after, which is where that setting in the book comes from. As for Cobalt, I based it on the small town in Western Pennsylvania both my parents are from. Like the fictitious Cobalt, it was idyllic and industry-driven when they were young, but it has since seen quite a bit of decline. We frequently visited there when I was young, but it was only when I got a little older that I became very curious what the little town was all about, what it might have been like to grow up there and how it might have shaped my parents' young lives.

I want to make clear that I owe a great deal of gratitude to the people and the town that inspired Cobalt — many people I love dearly are still there, and I wouldn't trade my experiences there for anything. It's served as a rich backdrop in my life, and without that, this book probably wouldn't exist.

3. Your novel is tremendously engaging and can easily be read in one sitting. However, Summer and her father come a long way and go through enormous personal changes over the course of the story. How did you develop the book and over what amount of time did you write it?

I wrote the middle section first, where Summer's father is going through the worst of his depression. Originally, it was a flashback from a very different book, one where Summer is married with two children and coping with a different set of problems. I kept struggling with the book from that perspective, and after enough time, I realized that it wasn't the story I wanted to tell. So I scrapped what I'd done and started over at the beginning — when Summer's mother leaves — and went from there.

It took about a year to write the first draft of The Visibles in this form, and then another year to edit and refine it. I didn't outline the book, just followed it along. I took quite a few turns that way, but I think it worked out for the best. I tend to be a very long-winded at times, although I think it helps me to get wholly into each character, even if I have to cut it back later.

4. This is your first book written for an adult audience. How was writing this novel a different experience from writing for younger audiences? What was harder about the process? What was easier?

For me, writing for younger audiences and writing for adults uses two different halves of my brain. It's very difficult for me to work on both genres at the same time — I have to finish a YA novel before even reading a draft of something I'm working on for adults, and vice versa. Strangely, I also find it easier to read YA books while writing adult fiction, and reading adult novels while working on YA. I guess that's so it will be less likely for the author's voice I'm reading to get stuck in my head.

Something far simpler about writing for younger audiences — especially a series — is that after a while, a regular structure emerges. In each YA book I've written, I have a general idea what needs to happen when and build the plot to get it there. In writing The Visibles, I had far more choices. Maybe too many. The other thing that differs when writing for adults is that I was able to treat the narrative in a more mature and unconventional way than I could with a book for younger audiences. Even in the sections where Summer is quite young, I felt like I could dig a little deeper, delve into concepts that were a little more abstract. But to succeed at either genre, a writer needs a very distinct voice and quite a bit of thought, and I certainly don't mean to discount either type of book. I'm extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to do both. It's as though my whole head has gotten vigorous exercise over the past few years.

5. Do you see your book as more of a mystery or a family story?

I suppose I saw it as a family story, that and a story about relationships, a story about New York and Western Pennsylvania, and a story about genetics. But I suppose families are mysteries, aren't they? One of the first inspirations I had when starting this book was the idea that parents live entire, sweeping, rich and — yes — mysterious lives before ever having children. They love, they disappoint, they triumph, they attempt things and fail, they might even go off the rails a little. They've had thousands upon millions of unique experiences that make them precisely who they are...and so much of this isn't passed on to children, either because parents don't want to discuss it or kids simply aren't interested. It's a shame, really. The mystery Summer uncovers about her father perhaps more dramatic than most, but it doesn't mean that there aren't mysteries in all families, everywhere.

6. Much of the book is told, compellingly, from Summer's point of view, but her father's voice is prominent as well. As a female writer, did you find it difficult to capture his voice? Whose point of view did you enjoy writing from most? Did you consider other points of view?

I've written short stories from male perspectives before, and I've never had a problem with it as long as I've understood the character's emotions and motivations. And truthfully, Richard's voice is a balance between playful and emotional, quite similar to many of the voices in my own family, so it wasn't too difficult to write from his vantage point. I enjoyed writing Summer and Richard equally. I didn't consider other voices for this book, but as I mentioned, this novel started out from Summer's perspective as a much older woman, haunted by her father's illness from a distance.

7. Who is your ideal reader for this book? Were you writing to a specific audience? What do you hope they take away from your novel?

The various elements of The Visibles are so varied that I never really had an ideal audience in mind. But before the novel was published, and because many aspects of this novel incorporate intimate details of my family's life — almost inside jokes, if you will — the original audience was close family members. I'm guessing that many writers do this — they use snippets from their own lives and family lore without quite realizing it. Beyond that, I believe it's for anyone who is interested in a good story, quirky characters, science, illness, or love. That just about covers everyone, doesn't it?

8. To what other writers would you compare your writing style? Who do you enjoy reading? What books influenced you to become a writer?

It's difficult for me to read my writing objectively and try to compare it to other writers' work, especially writers I admire. I primarily read fiction, and I read a good many wonderful books while writing The Visibles. A few that inspired me for their voice, setting, plot, or simply for that fantastic, magical, unclassifiable thing fiction does included Underworld, by Don DeLillo, Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood, American Pastoral, by Philip Roth, and Chilly Scenes of Winter, by Ann Beattie.

As for books that influenced me to be an author, who knows? Beverly Cleary? Roald Dahl? I wrote stories on a big drawing pad at the coffee table in my living room when I was eight, so it's hard to say what book had really started me off. I'll say one thing, though: when my teachers handed out summer reading lists at the end of the school year, I never groaned and put it off. I was always excited.

9. Do you have plans for your next book?

Yes! I've finished the first draft of it. It's told from three perspectives — an woman in her fifties, her thirty-year-old son, and the son's wife. Another family member is accused of a shadowy crime, but no one is sure if he did it or if he didn't. The book explores how far each family member feels they should go to protect him. The characters also question their own motives — how they make judgments about things without truly considering them — and also their own lives — how certain elements haven't panned out the way they'd planned. The book doesn't have a title yet, though. I find coming up with a title the hardest part of writing a novel.

Sara Shepard received an MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College and is the author of the young adult series Pretty Little Liars, a New York Public Library Notables selection.  She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This is her first adult novel.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Visibles includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Sara Shepard. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

The Visibles by Sara Shepard is told through the thoughts of one Summer Davis, a brave and bright young woman who places her life on hold to take care of several ailing family members. After the disappearance of her mother, Summer shoulders the challenge of helping her father through his subsequent decline into mental illness. Summer has an interest in science that she inherits from her father and goes into genetics—leading her to question what else of her parents she might have inherited, and whether real happiness is something she can ever achieve. Throughout her life, and the book, Summer is influenced by such personages as a childhood friend, Claire, whose absence makes as much of an impression on Summer as her presence, and a great-aunt, Stella, who personifies with immense charm the best as well as the most terrifying aspects of Summer's father's rural upbringing. The Visibles is a book about dealing with loss and living in the past, how what happens to you as a child never really leaves you, and no matter how old you get you can learn to live, change, and recover. And that life, not unlike the code in our DNA, is determined not by what it is but by what you make of it.

Questions for Discussion

1. When they are growing up, how are Summer and Claire similar and different? When they meet years later, how does Summer interpret the changes that each has gone through? Are they more alike later in life? What in Summer draws her to reconnect with Claire?

2. Periodically throughout the book, another voice enters the story. What effect did this have on your reading? When did you realize who the voice was and why it was important?

3. How does the author use the setting — time and place — to frame the story? How do current events throughout the story — the first World Trade Center bombing, the O.J. Simpson trial, 9/11 — shape its course, if at all? What effect do the time lapses throughout the story have?

4. The lower Manhattan skyline appears throughout the novel, both for its parts — the tower Meredith worked in, the nicknames Summer and Claire gave certain buildings — and its whole, especially after 9/11. What do you think the skyline represents to Summer? Does its symbolism change as the novel progresses?

5. In the beginning of the novel, Summer's brother, Steven, barely reacts to their mother's disappearance. The next time we meet him, he is deeply and perhaps irrationally motivated by the first World Trade bombing. Then he is indifferent and unavailable, but by the end of the book, he has changed again. Has he adjusted better than Summer has by the novel's close? What drives his changes and behavior throughout the years?

6. What was the effect of reading the storyline through Summer's eyes? How would it have been different if her father had done all of the narrating? Or Stella?

7. What keeps Summer from feeling completely comfortable with Philip?

8. Has Summer been shaped more by her genes or by her past experiences? Why do you feel that way? In this story, and in life, how important are accidents, genetic and otherwise, to the shaping of a person?

9. "Faith, I thought. Yet again, I turned everything over to faith...My father would eventually practice medicine again. My mother would wash up as something plain and somewhat pitiful, maybe a telemarketer or sales clerk, her drama career hitting a dead-end. We would get through this, and he'd come out a hero" (p. 139). Do you believe that Summer has faith? How does she express her faith? Does her faith change throughout the story?

10. Speaking of Alex, Summer says, "How could he love me? What had I done that was so incredible? I wanted to say that I loved him, too, but I knew I didn't mean it, so the words wouldn't come. I wasn't sure if I was equipped to love anyone" (p. 188). Do you believe that Summer is not "equipped" to love during the course of the book? Why or why not? Is Summer capable of love by the end of the book? If so, what in her changed?

11. Throughout the story several characters — her mother, grandmother, and Stella — leave Summer's life. How does she react to each? How does each loss change the way that she thinks? How does it affect the people around her?

12. When did you discover Summer's father's secret? How did you react? Did you expect it? Do secrets have the capability to shape our lives more than truth? How and why?

13. "I am still me, I told you. We are the worst of ourselves and also the best. They can try and shock it out of you, but it doesn't really go away, not entirely. And that's okay" (p. 253). What does the narrator of this section mean by this? Do you believe it to be true? Why or why not?

14. Whose story is this? Is it Summer's story or is it her father's? Who changes the most from the beginning to the end?

15. The use of ECT was controversial even in its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Earlier than that depression itself was not seen as a disease. How do you think the timing of his illness affected Richard Davis? Do you think he would be treated similarly today?

16. Stella investigates alternative medicine at the end of her life. Are there controversial medical practices today that you believe are worthwhile?

Enhance Your Reading Group

1. There are many websites where you can learn more about your own family history. Check out one such as www.genealogy.com/, www.genealogy.org/, www.familysearch.org/, www.ancestry.com/, or www.archives.gov/genealogy/ and discuss your roots with your book club.

2. To visit or learn more about vacations and artists communities in Vermont visit: http://www.vermontvacation.com/.

3. Memory retrieval and the passing along of family history are central to the book. What is your earliest memory? How did your family pass down family history?

4. There has been much debate about genetics influencing personality and lifestyle choices, especially things like alcoholism and homosexuality. How much do you think genetics influence who we are? Who much do you think experience does?

A Conversation with Sara Shepard

1. How strongly do you identify with each of your main characters? How are you different?

Like Summer, I've always been fascinated with science, especially genetics, and for a while I was certain genetic research was going to be my career. I'm also like Summer in that I would rather things be orderly and explained — I like a sense of control, which is pretty much what Summer struggles with the entire novel. Like Richard, I often live in my head, particularly in my memories. And Stella is a pure amalgam of my mom, my aunts, and my grandfather, Charles Vent. I heard a combination of their voices whenever I wrote her dialogue. It was a joy to write Stella's character — I had thirty years of material to work with. As for how I'm different, I'm not sure I'm as sour and closed-off as Summer sometimes is. It's a defense mechanism for her, of course, but I'm unfortunately too much of a people-pleaser, and am more concerned with making everyone comfortable.

2. Why did you set the book in the place and time that you did? Do you have a special link to rural Pennsylvania or Brooklyn?

I was a teenager and in my early twenties in the 1990s, struggling with many of the same problems as Summer — learning to decipher my emotions, trying to find a balance between choosing my own course and doing what was expected of me, and, essentially, puzzling over what makes the people closest to me tick.

As for the settings, I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, went to college in New York, and ended up moving to Brooklyn not long after, which is where that setting in the book comes from. As for Cobalt, I based it on the small town in Western Pennsylvania both my parents are from. Like the fictitious Cobalt, it was idyllic and industry-driven when they were young, but it has since seen quite a bit of decline. We frequently visited there when I was young, but it was only when I got a little older that I became very curious what the little town was all about, what it might have been like to grow up there and how it might have shaped my parents' young lives.

I want to make clear that I owe a great deal of gratitude to the people and the town that inspired Cobalt — many people I love dearly are still there, and I wouldn't trade my experiences there for anything. It's served as a rich backdrop in my life, and without that, this book probably wouldn't exist.

3. Your novel is tremendously engaging and can easily be read in one sitting. However, Summer and her father come a long way and go through enormous personal changes over the course of the story. How did you develop the book and over what amount of time did you write it?

I wrote the middle section first, where Summer's father is going through the worst of his depression. Originally, it was a flashback from a very different book, one where Summer is married with two children and coping with a different set of problems. I kept struggling with the book from that perspective, and after enough time, I realized that it wasn't the story I wanted to tell. So I scrapped what I'd done and started over at the beginning — when Summer's mother leaves — and went from there.

It took about a year to write the first draft of The Visibles in this form, and then another year to edit and refine it. I didn't outline the book, just followed it along. I took quite a few turns that way, but I think it worked out for the best. I tend to be a very long-winded at times, although I think it helps me to get wholly into each character, even if I have to cut it back later.

4. This is your first book written for an adult audience. How was writing this novel a different experience from writing for younger audiences? What was harder about the process? What was easier?

For me, writing for younger audiences and writing for adults uses two different halves of my brain. It's very difficult for me to work on both genres at the same time — I have to finish a YA novel before even reading a draft of something I'm working on for adults, and vice versa. Strangely, I also find it easier to read YA books while writing adult fiction, and reading adult novels while working on YA. I guess that's so it will be less likely for the author's voice I'm reading to get stuck in my head.

Something far simpler about writing for younger audiences — especially a series — is that after a while, a regular structure emerges. In each YA book I've written, I have a general idea what needs to happen when and build the plot to get it there. In writing The Visibles, I had far more choices. Maybe too many. The other thing that differs when writing for adults is that I was able to treat the narrative in a more mature and unconventional way than I could with a book for younger audiences. Even in the sections where Summer is quite young, I felt like I could dig a little deeper, delve into concepts that were a little more abstract. But to succeed at either genre, a writer needs a very distinct voice and quite a bit of thought, and I certainly don't mean to discount either type of book. I'm extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to do both. It's as though my whole head has gotten vigorous exercise over the past few years.

5. Do you see your book as more of a mystery or a family story?

I suppose I saw it as a family story, that and a story about relationships, a story about New York and Western Pennsylvania, and a story about genetics. But I suppose families are mysteries, aren't they? One of the first inspirations I had when starting this book was the idea that parents live entire, sweeping, rich and — yes — mysterious lives before ever having children. They love, they disappoint, they triumph, they attempt things and fail, they might even go off the rails a little. They've had thousands upon millions of unique experiences that make them precisely who they are...and so much of this isn't passed on to children, either because parents don't want to discuss it or kids simply aren't interested. It's a shame, really. The mystery Summer uncovers about her father perhaps more dramatic than most, but it doesn't mean that there aren't mysteries in all families, everywhere.

6. Much of the book is told, compellingly, from Summer's point of view, but her father's voice is prominent as well. As a female writer, did you find it difficult to capture his voice? Whose point of view did you enjoy writing from most? Did you consider other points of view?

I've written short stories from male perspectives before, and I've never had a problem with it as long as I've understood the character's emotions and motivations. And truthfully, Richard's voice is a balance between playful and emotional, quite similar to many of the voices in my own family, so it wasn't too difficult to write from his vantage point. I enjoyed writing Summer and Richard equally. I didn't consider other voices for this book, but as I mentioned, this novel started out from Summer's perspective as a much older woman, haunted by her father's illness from a distance.

7. Who is your ideal reader for this book? Were you writing to a specific audience? What do you hope they take away from your novel?

The various elements of The Visibles are so varied that I never really had an ideal audience in mind. But before the novel was published, and because many aspects of this novel incorporate intimate details of my family's life — almost inside jokes, if you will — the original audience was close family members. I'm guessing that many writers do this — they use snippets from their own lives and family lore without quite realizing it. Beyond that, I believe it's for anyone who is interested in a good story, quirky characters, science, illness, or love. That just about covers everyone, doesn't it?

8. To what other writers would you compare your writing style? Who do you enjoy reading? What books influenced you to become a writer?

It's difficult for me to read my writing objectively and try to compare it to other writers' work, especially writers I admire. I primarily read fiction, and I read a good many wonderful books while writing The Visibles. A few that inspired me for their voice, setting, plot, or simply for that fantastic, magical, unclassifiable thing fiction does included Underworld, by Don DeLillo, Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood, American Pastoral, by Philip Roth, and Chilly Scenes of Winter, by Ann Beattie.

As for books that influenced me to be an author, who knows? Beverly Cleary? Roald Dahl? I wrote stories on a big drawing pad at the coffee table in my living room when I was eight, so it's hard to say what book had really started me off. I'll say one thing, though: when my teachers handed out summer reading lists at the end of the school year, I never groaned and put it off. I was always excited.

9. Do you have plans for your next book?

Yes! I've finished the first draft of it. It's told from three perspectives — an woman in her fifties, her thirty-year-old son, and the son's wife. Another family member is accused of a shadowy crime, but no one is sure if he did it or if he didn't. The book explores how far each family member feels they should go to protect him. The characters also question their own motives — how they make judgments about things without truly considering them — and also their own lives — how certain elements haven't panned out the way they'd planned. The book doesn't have a title yet, though. I find coming up with a title the hardest part of writing a novel.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 10, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book

    I loved reading this. It has a story that will keep you entertained for hours.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 4, 2009

    Engaging

    I do not have a ton of free time to read so it is such a treat when I do. What I loved about the Visibles is that it sucked me in...I couldn't put it down. I felt like I wanted to jump in to help out. This is a great read that will captivate readers of all styles.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Visibles is now my number one book of all time! The Kite Runner was my number one best book for a long time, until I read this book. Sure to be a bestseller, The Visibles is by far the best book I have read in a long time!

    Summer Davis is devastated and withdrawn after her mother suddenly leaves the family. She puts her life on hold, to care for her mentally ill father who, she knows, has also been keeping a secret for years.


    Summer becomes interested in DNA and the study of genetics, as she questions her own family's genetic makeup. Summer's coding binds her to her mentally ill father, her apathetic older brother, and her mother who is not part of her life, but is always part of her.


    When Summer goes with her father to Pennsylvania to Great Aunt Stella's house, she gains insight into the mysterious secret, as well as insight to her genetic makeup. The story delves into the dark corners of family ties, and that we each have no escaping our genetic code - our heritage. Sara's wording is sharp, clever, and insightful, with just the right amount of humor.

    This book is sure to be a bestseller! The Kite Runner has been my number one book of all time, but I have a new number one - The Visibles!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 22, 2009

    Visibles Review

    Sara Shepard is a gifted writer. I enjoyed reading her first adult novel, The Visibles. Sara has created a beautiful tale and her characters come to life in the story. It is a book that I couldn't put down- it will warm your heart!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Book

    This book sucks

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted February 21, 2012

    This book sucks

    Thus is a bad book

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A WONDERFUL FIRST NOVEL

    I read an advanced copy of The Visibles and absolutely loved it! The author's ability to deal with serious subject matter with humor and wisdom (especially in the character of Stella!) is refreshing.
    Some of the passages were so insightful and unique, I highlighted them and reread them often.

    I look forward to many more books by this new author!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted September 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    good read!

    It's one of those books that pulls in right from the begging....

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