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3.5 out of 5 stars
An Invisible Sign of My Own
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2002
I haven't read a book like it since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". I found it completely refreshing to read about a heroine so flawed and yet so easy to understand and appreciate. There are moments of intense exasperation for the reader, yes, but ultimately worth it. Many of the characters, not just the main one, and especially her students, stand out as believable and honest. It's a little book that you can read in a few days. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2013
Mona Gray is the most annoying character ever. She is extremely unlikeable, and I honestly could not find any redeeming qualities. Page after page, she only got worse.

The book started out well enough, with a little background information on Mona and why she turned out the way she did (i.e. a quitter and a nutter). Her father needs a good kick to the backside. I don't even understand what is wrong with him, or how him pretending something is wrong is supposed to make me feel sympathetic towards him. I mean, you've ruined your family's life. You're a pathetic excuse for a man.

And Mona, who is allegedly some sort of Math genius? Fascinated by numbers, enjoys doing long division in her free time, and knocks incessently to ward off bad luck, is hired - almost forceably - as an elementary Maths teacher. Big mistake. This 20 year old failure can barely take care of herself, let alone take care of children.

And honestly, the kids were just as annoying as their teacher. I wanted to give them a couple of good smacks to get them in line. The interactions between her and these children, in fact, between her and anybody, were so uninteresting that I kept expecting something to happen. And this went on for pages and pages and pages worth of this relatively short book.

How can I feel anything for someone who eats soap almost killing herself and then using it to detract herself from sexuality, frequently tries to hurt herself or at least thinks about it, and brings an ax to a classroom, then stupidly lets a student hold it?!

This book ended on such a dull note. I mean honestly, I expected some sort of huge revelation. An epiphany of some sorts. There was nothing for me there. We end up as confused as we were at the beginning. None of our questions are answered or even slightly addressed. Mona's character development takes her nowhere. And it baffles me that people found some sort of emotional depth in this story, and they came out of it with some sort of moral or lesson.

I admit, Aimee Bender writes well. There were certain lines that stuck with me. But the plot, the characters, the overall BOOK, that was just one waste of time.

This is my first book for Bender, and looking at other reviews, I am led to believe that as bad as this book was, she's actually a decent short-story author. Which is fantastic, because I happened to purchase The Girl in the Flammable Skirt along with this one and I can only hope that it's better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 April 2012
I bought this novel because I really enjoyed Aimee Bender's most recent novel 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' and was intrigued to see what her debut was like, having missed it first time round (originally published 2000). 'An Invisible Sign of My Own' explores the relationship between adults and children and of how children try to make sense of the world around them. For Mona this involves numbers and counting yet in spite of her obsession with the logic of numbers she is also superstitious about them. Mona seems to be afraid of being happy and quits everything that threatens to make her so. Age 20 she becomes a maths teacher with a unusual style of teaching that engages her young pupils, but in the end Mona learns as much from them as they do from her.

The novel is peopled with fascinating characters, her old maths teacher who now runs a hardware store, the young science teacher who also has a unusual style of teaching. Even the children are unique and well drawn, each with their own problems and obsessions. Bender has an amazing and quirky imagination but you have to be prepared to suspend your disbelief and engage with the world she creates. Not as polished as 'Lemon Cake', but then I didn't expect it to be but it is definitely a debut novel that deserves a second chance at success. I am now going to read her short story collections 'The Girl in the Flammable Skirt' and 'Wilful Creatures', both published before this novel. The popularity of 'Lemon Cake' may have made Aimee Bender an 'overnight success', but it has been a long night!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2002
Aimee Bender has written such an original tale. I became utterly involved in her world and shared every emotion... You can't help but love her and her crazy life. It is written with grace and daring. What an engaging read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2012
Having adored The particular sadness of lemon cake I was really looking forward to reading this book. I actually didn't manage to finish it, it upset and disturbed me so much. Having lost many people I love to cancer and having a mother who lost her mind through OCD I could in no way find the reasoning behind what the author was trying to portray or achieve. If you have any of the afore mentioned in your life please don't read this book - it will be too much to bear.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2001
Superb. Characters that stay with you for weeks after finishing and emotional twists that I am still beginning to understand.
Quirky and bizzare in parts this is an incredibly crafted novel on the emotional pain of life, death, illness and family ties. With two "fairy" tales at either end to sum up the characters changing view during the book, this is a tale of a 20 something girl who grows by interacting with the children she teaches her strange form of maths at her school.
Growing and dealing with the possibilities of death close to and far from her, and building a relationship she can deal with, Mona spirals and twists through this novel interwoven with the neighbours, parents, brief lovers and children all strong characters of their own.
Buy it, read it. Then read it again.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2001
This book has a happy ending - fortunately otherwise it would be too sad. It's the story of how the young Mona for years has been obsessed with numbers trying in vain to escape reality, a reality in which her father is slowly fading into death. Then she becomes a maths teacher in the local primary school and meets the down to earth science teacher. Upon meeting him, and Lisa whose mother is dying from cancer, her life begins to change.
Flashbacks slowly unveil Monas life from the age of 10 to 20, and gradually helps the reader to understand her world - to a point where I almost started to believe in it.
I liked the book because Aimee Bender tells Monas story in a way that can best be described as mix of humour, sincerity and a fairytale.
Read it, it's worth it.
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on 23 October 2012
I took a chance on this book as I really enjoyed "Lemon Cake", but I began to get the suspicion that I was going to dislike this one from the moment I started the book. Annoyingly "kooky" and centred on an irksome primary school teacher, the world in which the story is set resembles our own except for the laws of logic. I completely failed to see how anybody could possibly see this as an emotional or moving story as I felt nothing but vague dislike for almost everybody in it. There are moments when Bender's prose is lovely, but this only adds to the sense of disappointment.
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I think Entertainment Weekly gets it right on the cover of my proof copy: 'Bender has hit the ground running'. This is a remarkably assured debut, vivid in both its realism (the world of the primary school teacher graphically evoked) and its kooky individuality - though I see this is oactually only her first *novel* and that quote was probably for her short story collection, which I've got on the bedside table to read - some time
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2014
Enjoyed the first half of the book, but then found it became tedious with out any additional storyline. Got boring
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