Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

     What would you do if you woke up one day to find that you are completely invisible?  Would you be afraid? Angry? Or maybe secretly thrilled?  In Jeanne Ray's new book, Calling Invisible Women, this is exactly what happens to Clover, a 50-something woman who wears many hats, including that of a journalist, mother, wife, and friend.  Clover's situation is confusing and utterly terrifying, but even more bewildering is the fact that no one in her family has noticed.  When she wears clothing, the shape and outline of her body is visible, but her flesh has disappeared into thin air.

     Clover soon realizes that she's not the only woman in the world struggling with this condition - hundreds, if not thousands of other women have become invisible, and the cause is traced to a combination of pharmaceutical drugs that, when taken together, may cause certain women to completely disappear.  But nobody seems to notice or even care that these middle aged women have been physically reduced to nothing but voices, scents, and a floating torso (when they choose to wear clothing, that is).  And as long as the fridge is full, the errands are complete, and dinner is on the table, even Clover's family is unaware of her condition.

     But Clover is a bit more optimistic about this predicament than some of the other invisible women.  When she's naked, her presence is completely undetectable, so she takes the opportunity to approach life from a new perspective.  As Clover says, "Now I can see how many things you can do when no one is watching.  It's a huge freedom when you think about it."  As she soon finds out, being invisible is sometimes inconvenient, but it's also a super power!  As Clover adjusts to her condition, she takes a bold approach to invisibility and inspires a national chain of events.

     Calling Invisible Women reads like a sci-fi superhero comedy.  It's weird, hilarious, and completely entertaining, but it's also a bold commentary on the social status of middle-aged women.  In a society that values youth and beauty to the point of obsession, what does that do for a woman's self-worth as she ages?  As Jeanne Ray points out, women of a certain age are devalued to a point of invisibility.  They are marginalized as mothers and wives and completely stripped of their sexuality.  Unfortunately, it's going to take a national movement for all women to regain their visibility in our world, but with Clover and the other invisible women of Ray's novel, we are reminded that our voices are more powerful than our physical bodies.

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