INVISIBLE ELLEN by Shari Shattuck


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Abandoned by her mother when she was just 5, Ellen bounced from foster families to group homes, learning to hide from the world. Shy, reclusive and obese, she's socially invisible to most people. 

Initially, Ellen’s tale is intriguing. She's gone to extreme lengths to keep the world from noticing her: working the night shift on the Costco cleaning crew, having her groceries delivered and combing her hair closely over the left side of her face to hide a scar that people might stare at. The closest she comes to social interaction is spying on two of her neighbors, whom she considers pets and has created nicknames for: "Heidi," a woman with braids, and "T-Bone," a small-time drug dealer. Usually she just takes notes on their behavior, but lately other people seem to be messing with her pets and Ellen doesn’t like that. Heidi is faced with an unexpected pregnancy, and T-Bone encounters some difficult customers. Then, when a blind woman sits next to her on the bus, Ellen is intrigued and follows her onto the street, which is fortuitous, because she saves the woman from muggers. The blind woman, named Temerity, and her twin brother, Justice, embrace Ellen as a new friend, delivering her from loneliness. Temerity is, of course, cheeky and brave. As a student of anthropology, Justice is, of course, nonjudgmental, seeing the unique beauty in everyone. Soon, Temerity and Ellen have embarked on a series of interventions, including rescuing a co-worker from sexual harassment, rescuing Heidi from a life-altering mistake and rescuing T-Bone from a near-death encounter. With its relentless reminders of Temerity’s blindness and Ellen’s awkwardness, Shattuck’s (Legacy, 2013) latest unfortunately buckles under the weight of its own premise.

What could be a charming tale of redemption becomes a heavy-handed fable.

Pub Date: May 29th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-399-16761-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2014


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