Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

12959658Title: Calling Invisible Women
Author: Jeanne Ray
Pages: 246
Year: 2012
Publisher: Crown (Random House)
Time taken to read: 23 hours
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis:  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.

I picked this up at the library yesterday and, like yesterday’s book Thirteen Reasons Why, I finished it in a day. Does anyone else ever feel like they’re sick of their to-read list? Like you’ve seen the same titles over and over and even though you haven’t actually read them yet, you’re sick of them. Well, I kind of felt that way yesterday, so while I was picking up a book I’ve been wanting to read for years, I decided to get something I’d never heard of before. I even went to a different section than usual–the adult fiction section.

The beginning of this book reminded me of why I hate adult books–I hate adults. I am not interested in people who want to whine about how texting is ruining the world. (The main character even specifically said that English majors hate texting. Well, I was an English major. I probably spend half my life texting, and internet humor centered around chatspeak is kind of my specialty.) And she had to bring up how tattoos are evil and whatever, but I will agree that her son’s tattoo idea was awful.

That being said, Clover Hobart is a great main character, and by page 40, I really, really cared about her. It feels weird being able to relate to someone in their fifties, but I did. I do. Yikes. Anyway, the whole point of this book is that these women are literally invisible, and I spent the whole book wondering, is this a metaphor for something or is this supposed to be a fantasy? I guess in the end I decided that it’s both. It’s a fantastical metaphor, and it’s a fantastic metaphor. It reminded me of the current issues with Planned Parenthood. Women just want the rights to their own bodies. How difficult of a concept is that? And yet, rich white men will continue to push their oppressive agenda. Once this book got into the activism part, I was really into this. I wanted to see them win so badly. All the women in this book made me really feel something. I was so glad that they had their invisible sisterhood when nothing else in their lives was going right. I felt like any of the women from that group would make incredible role models, and it was inspiring for me to read about women demanding respect and making themselves powerful.

This book also made me wonder about the power of appearance. I’m not stunning like Clover’s daughter Evie, but I’m decent enough with some makeup. But if I was invisible, would I ever bother to put makeup on? (I probably wouldn’t be able to anyway, since I couldn’t see myself in the mirror.) Clover says that women would never wear heels if no one could see them. So why do we wear them? Do we want people to think we look nice, or do we want to look nice for ourselves? I’m by no means anti-dressing up. I believe that women should be able to spend hours on their hair and makeup in the morning without being called shallow or superficial. At the heart of it, we don’t do that for anyone but ourselves. Looking nice makes (many) girls happy. It’s just something to think about.

Most of the criticism that I’ve seen comes from the idea that it’s really stupid that no one noticed that she was invisible, but I think those people are missing the metaphorical aspect. Her husband and children were seeing what they always saw–which wasn’t her. And I thought that the balance of reactions was done well. Clover’s husband felt terrible while Ariana’s husband blamed her. I think we definitely needed to see both sides of that. My only real criticism is that I found Clover to be annoying in the beginning and that the point of the novel confused me for maybe the first half, but I grew to love Clover and her cause.

Maybe this book has changed my mind about adult fiction, or at least some of it. Adults are really annoying, but regardless of age, I stand in solidarity with all women.

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