The publisher classifies Calling Invisible Women as general fiction in its cataloging entry. I would tend to place it in a category all its own, somewhere between fantasy and science fiction, with another label of chick lit thrown in for good measure. Jeanne Ray’s latest novel deviates from all the well-worn paths into a realm that is improbable, yet well thought out; with serious and provocative implications, yet told with Ray’s familiar subtle humor and charm evident in earlier books like Julie and Romeo and Step Ball Change.
When I first read the synopsis, in which protagonist Clover discovers that she is invisible, I thought, “Ah...another book about older women told metaphorically.” That assumption was far from the actual story line. Clover really IS invisible! And yes, the metaphor of being a woman of a certain age who has blended into the woodwork to those nearest her is one of the threads, but Ray has created a much richer story that sets this book apart.
Ray definitely stretches the boundaries of realism with her premise, yet she seems to possess a very logical mind as well, as the logistics of being invisible are well thought out. She has covered the practicalities of invisibility satisfactorily, so that it doesn’t become a hindrance to the underlying story. Yes, the reader needs a sense of the whimsical, and a suspension of reality, but being invisible will seem to be an enviable state after Ray’s handling of it.
Some of the characters are more fleshed out than others—and not by virtue of whether they are invisible or not—but not all of them are predictable, and that propelled the plot in interesting directions. Although the author might easily identify with the women in the book, she seems to have a knack for building rich male characters. Clover’s son and her daughter’s boyfriend are two of the smartest, nicest boys I’d ever want to meet. And although I wanted to paint Clover’s husband a cad, Ray certainly does not, which created a more favorable picture of a typical marriage, in my estimation.
My only criticism of the book is that it was much too short. It would have been fun to delve into more quirky and outrageous aspects of being invisible, as Clover certainly seemed to be ready to push the boundaries.
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