An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
Find it on: LibraryThing
What it is:
A fairly short novel about Mona Grey, whose father one day develops a mysterious sickness (a sort of anxiety disorder or depression, probably, but it’s never specified). The novel focuses on how this makes Mona slowly withdraw from life and from the things she enjoyed. Even though it chooses a lighthearted tone, the story actually touches upon very profound and unsolvable questions: the fear of loss and death and the difficulty in communication.
How I found it:
No idea. I did like the description I found somewhere: it sounded like just the right kind of gloomy (it’s not really gloomy though).
I liked the book well enough but I feel it had potential to engage me more.
Best things about it:
I like how it tackles the dark theme of the fear we all have to learn to live around. I like the weirdness of Mona and how all her quirks (and, frankly, neuroses) don’t completely incapacitate her or her potential for developing relations with people. I was quite impressed by the casualness of the story.
Worst things about it:
I feel like the book would benefit from a more experimental, sophisticated approach to language. I kept wondering how Lady Oracle-Atwood (rather than the new dystopian Atwood I don’t read) would approach this story and make it both more alive and more chilling with her linguistic games.
✤ The author has a good ear for children. The scenes in the elementary school are the most lively in the entire book.
✤ I liked the composition of parts of the book, where we are given a series of surreal facts about Mona (for instance, she eats soap not to have sex) and only later learn how this started.
Maybe the ending did feel too easy and you can wince at the fact that a guy is a catalyst for change but personally I didn’t mind.
How it enriched my life:
I enjoy psychological narratives and stories about children. It also reinforced my already strong belief that I could never teach children.
There is a movie adaptation of this story with Jessica Alba, of all people, and it appears from the trailer to have turned the story into a cutesy rom-com mush. I’ll steer clear despite Chris Messina’s presence.
The cover doesn’t excite me and I wish it found a smart way to use numbers (though alternative covers I saw underline the fact it would have to be smart; overall, I prefer the unpretentiousness of this one). But, unlike the movie adaptation, it emphasizes the subtlety of the story, the composition is evocative and they managed to find a convincing model.
Definitely not the movie, and I don’t necessarily see a direct follow-up.
People who are not discouraged by introvert stories about slightly broken characters (but with an overall optimistic sense).
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Next time: Dietland (the show)