Saturday, May 26, 2012

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Are women over a certain age invisible? Jeanne Ray didn't write her first novel until she was sixty. Then, she produced four terrific books aimed at mature women, Julie and Romeo, Julie and Romeo Get Lucky, Eat Cake, and Step-Ball-Change. The books all featured mature women and family relationships, dealing with them with dry humor and a great deal of understanding and heart.  It's been ten years since her last book. She just seemed to disappear. Now, her latest novel, Calling Invisible Women, addresses that problem, women who disappear. They're the women no one seems to notice anymore. They're taken for granted. And, it could be any one of us over the age of fifty.

Clover Hobart was brushing her teeth when she noticed she was invisible. She couldn't see herself in the mirror, but her son and husband still talked to her. They might have looked right through her as they ate with her, or asked her to run errands, but they never noticed she was invisible. She was inclined to chalk it up to her husband's busy life as a pediatrician, and her son's anxiety about getting a job. She didn't want to admit they had stopped seeing her years earlier when she went from being a reporter to a woman who worked from home, writing a gardening column while handling all the chores around the house. Then her best friend, Gilda, was brutally honest with her. "It's just the plight of women after a certain age. No one can see you."

When a small ad in the newspaper caught Clover's eye, she learned there was an entire group of invisible women who met regularly at a nearby hotel. They were women who had gone through menopause, took medication to avoid osteoporosis, maybe an anti-depressant. Oh, and they might have tried Botox at one time or another. Invisible women. Meeting those women, along with advice from her mother-in-law, freed Clover. She found ways to use her invisibility to her advantage. When Clover started to feel more powerful and less inhibited, she discovered new ways for women to be recognized. Her own family might not notice she was invisible, but Clover Hobart was going to stand up and help other invisible women prove they were still important, and they still could make a difference in the world.

All of Jeanne Ray's books have some bittersweet moments. But they also have wonderful strong women at the heart of the stories.  The dry quiet humor is marvelous. Imagine being invisible and not having to deal with security at the airports. Ray shows us airports, secure companies, schools, a doctor's office, and businesses, all through the eyes of a woman who is invisible. And, she shows us the heartwarming moments when someone recognizes the woman is invisible. There's pain, a sense of loss, bittersweet moments. Clover's mother-in-law, Irene,  points out that she's gained a new perspective on everything, including her own life. There's so much wisdom and warmth in this book. Calling Invisible Women is a cautionary tale. At the same time, it's a story of women's strength, and a story of triumph and love.

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray. Crown Publishers. 2012. ISBN 9780307395054 (hardcover), 246p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Rosemary said...

Sounds very interesting Lesa. There were comments on Twitter just yesterday about Maison du Chocolat handing out free samples in one of our towns and only giving them to young, pretty, girls. (I had to point out that on the very same day I had been approached by a very nice young man from a local wine bar who had given me their card and told me all about their menu - so it isn't universal, but it certainly is very common, for us to be ignored.)

I certainly feel that in places like computer stores, and especially the dreaded phone shops, I am instantly dismissed because I'm not under 25 - which is particularly aggravating when it's I who pay the phone bills for 2 of my 3 under 18s!

So I will look out for this book - thanks for telling us about it. Hope you are having a good weekend - we just had our coffee in the garden of a local plant nursery, absolutely lovely - blue skies and birds singing.


Lesa said...

You're coffee in the garden sounds wonderful, Rosemary. Actually, we're having a day of that weather, too. Probably not too many left before we hit 100-115 every day. But, today it's in the low 80s, and beautiful. House all opened up.

I know what you mean. Hate to go to computer stores, and places where they think only the young count. As you said, you're the one paying the bill. That's disgraceful that Maison du Chocolat only gave out samples to young pretty girls. You're going to appreciate this book.

Sue Farrell said...

Who says you have to be over 50 to be invisible? I've felt that way for YEARS---not a blond with a good body.

Lesa said...

Oh, Sue. I'm so sorry. Neither am I, and I get overlooked at times because I'm so short. You might want to read this book.

Ingrid King said...

This is definitely going on my TBR list - thank you for the great review, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ingrid! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Deborah White said...

I LOVE this book! Am now halfway through reading it on Kindle, and can't put it down. And can't stop smiling. It's a very fun read for this woman (wife, mother, grandmother) of a certain age.

Lesa said...

Isn't it great, Deborah! Thanks for writing that you love it. I felt the same way!

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading this for my new book group. Interesting. What we may find out is that the better a mother you are, the more invisible you become.