Read An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender Online


Aimee Bender’s stunning debut collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, proved her to be one of the freshest voices in American fiction. Now, in her first novel, she builds on that early promise. Mona Gray was ten when her father contracted a mysterious illness and she became a quitter, abandoning each of her talents just as pleasure became intense. The only thing she cAimee Bender’s stunning debut collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, proved her to be one of the freshest voices in American fiction. Now, in her first novel, she builds on that early promise. Mona Gray was ten when her father contracted a mysterious illness and she became a quitter, abandoning each of her talents just as pleasure became intense. The only thing she can’t stop doing is math: She knocks on wood, adds her steps, and multiplies people in the park against one another. When Mona begins teaching math to second-graders, she finds a ready audience. But the difficult and wonderful facts of life keep intruding. She finds herself drawn to the new science teacher, who has an unnerving way of seeing through her intricately built façade. Bender brilliantly directs her characters, giving them unexpected emotional depth and setting them in a calamitous world, both fancifully surreal and startlingly familiar.BONUS MATERIAL: This edition includes an excerpt from Aimee Bender's The Color Master....

Title : An Invisible Sign of My Own
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 12425845
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

An Invisible Sign of My Own Reviews

  • Travis
    2018-12-20 16:19

    On finishing the book I came to Goodreads to see what the concensus was... and I continue to be amazed at the power of subverted expectations. There are dozens of reviews citing the unbelievability of the circumstances of the book, or the lack of realism in the dialog of second graders and the thin plotting of the book... one notable review even complains that this uncertified (and likely certifiable) teacher is handed a classroom.Which has nothing to do with what the book wants to do. Aimee Bender traps us in a very narrow first person and makes us experience a fragment of Mona Gray's experience. If you're looking for a gritty realistic novel this isn't your section of the library.This books sits in the same corner as Jeanette Winterson. Poetic prose with no much of a care for narrative. Except of course that Winterson is all erotic fluidity to Bender's sharp fragments.Well worth your time if you enjoy experiencing what a writer is trying to convey, not at all worth your time if you Require sharply drawn sympathetic characters and gleaming stainless steel plot points.

  • jo
    2019-01-08 14:12

    this book seems to me miraculous. i am blown away. the language is extraordinary -- simple and fluid and always surprising, all sharp angles and painful enchantments -- and what it says, the depth of pain the book carries on its slender breezy back, wow, it left me breathless. strange how much psychic pain such a little funny book can carry, how many deep terrors it can plumb: death, illness, the loss of those we need/love, the body and its redundancies, the unspeakable violence we do to ourselves in order to stay whole, the inevitable breaking of that wholeness, how we doom connection, how we find connection, how connection surprises us with its resilience, its resistance to attack. twenty-year-old mona gray exorcises her terrors by knocking on wood, counting, and making love to a hatchet. she holds a few certainties, all having to do with the clean hard pain she can inflict to her body. aimee bender, who seems very young and is certainly very brave (check out her beautiful website), explores fear, pain, and love through the blows life deals to the body, and does a very good job at inflicting quite a few messy wounds in the process. if you have spent more than a day or two worrying about the unbearable semantic pregnancy of the body, this book is for you. when i finished it i felt i had been broken apart and put back together six or seven times.there are some heartbreakingly beautiful scenes, and they are all about people finding each other in spite of self-defeating efforts to make themselves all but unfindable.

  • Anne
    2019-01-14 15:18

    oh, aimee bender. it's like you wrote this book and mailed it straight to the little postbox in my heart.

  • Anthony
    2019-01-18 21:19

    Just when I was getting a little weary of knocking down the unread pile of books from my shelf, Aimee Bender’s quirky novel about a socially awkward 20 year-old elementary school math teacher pleasantly surprised me with its unique perspective and wittiness. To simply summarize the plot wouldn’t give proper credit to the effect that the first-person narrative has upon the reader. The math teacher, Mona Grey, is a slightly neurotic and eccentric person who obsessively knocks on wood as her “invisible sign” to deal with her troubles. She sees numbers in everything around her and has a fear of the smell of soap.Mona’s neuroses developed when she was a child and her father became ill with an unnamed disease that caused him to quit his job and his running (he was a track star in his past) to only wander about the family house privately, avoiding the world at large. As her father is nearing his 51st birthday Mona is privately melting down out of fear that he won’t live past 51 because it is the first non-prime, non even, non-special number. The pressures build as she is faced with many challenges including many uprisings in her classroom, an awkward romance with the school science teacher, and the disappearance of the hardware store owner that happens to be her parent’s next door neighbour and her elementary school math teacher. Through all this burdening pressure there is some beautiful writing that artfully expresses the pressures within Mona’s troubled mind, for example:“The world can ask you to participate, but it’s a day-by-day decision if you want to agree to that proposal.” (113)As book-ends to Mona’s mental crisis, the novel begins and ends with variations of the same fable about a kingdom where people do not die. The burgeoning over population has caused the king to require a sacrifice of one family member in order for the kingdom to persist with its ever-increasingly limited resources. This fable is essentially a segue into the importance of numbers for the protagonist, Mona Grey; for to Mona the loss of family, the loss of resources, and any loss can be represented numerically. For example:“It is all about numbers. Is is all about sequence. It’s the mathematical logic of being alive. If everything kept to its normal progression, we would live with the sadness – cry and then walk – but what really breaks us cleanest are the losses that happen out of order.” (195)The clean-break from the sequence comes when Mona allows herself to learn from one of her students who’s mother is dying of cancer. This child’s loss allows Mona to let go her neurotic fears about her father’s potential death. In that letting go, Mona is able to imagine a kingdom where moving on to another kingdom, or in other words – letting go – is just as much an option as is the King’s decree that every family must sacrafice a family member in order for the kingdom to survive.All of the pieces of the story add up to make a perfect equation and when I closed the cover after finishing it I had a smile on my face – that is a visible sign that this novel has achived something unique and was worth the read.

  • Nadine Larter
    2019-01-18 21:02

    Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love - something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not "just so" - as if being "realistic" and "structured" is the only way to be when it comes to putting yourself on paper. And yet here I sit, grateful for strange minds that take me to different worlds, and especially grateful that my own mind allows for me to be taken there.

  • Carrie
    2018-12-24 13:03

    The only reason I finished this book was because I thought it was well-written (OK, also because I didn't want to have to bring a dish to book club). I didn't connect with any of the characters and found them annoying. But more than that, this book really offended me as a teacher. The fact that this 19-year-old girl is allowed to just go teach seemed to carry the implication that anyone can do it. Forget about my degree, 60 hour work weeks, and hours upon hours of professional development every year, a 19 year-old can just walk in and teach math because she has a flair for numbers. Not to mention that fact it was completely unrealistic; I don't think this author (the author, not the character) has been in an elementary classroom since she was in elementary.The good news-it stirred an intense reaction in me! I've read plenty of books I dislike but this is the first book in a long time that has really offended me.

  • Emily
    2019-01-16 19:53

    I'd imagine that it'd be difficult to have ambiguous feelings about this book: you'll either love it or hate it. That being said, I loved every bit of it to pieces and have proceeded to carry them in my pocket with me and then scatter them around everywhere I go. An Invisible Sign of My Own covers innumerable heavy subjects in a way that's so delicate and light that you're somehow able to take it all in without being pinned under a leaden weight. The writing is beautiful, like a dark surreal fairytale where both real and fantastical dangers are tucked away in everyday moments.The most important thing I got from reading this book was the personal message it left for me in its final pages, which admittedly had me tearing up. In a world where numbers rule, it's important to remember that we can't be whole when we divide ourselves up, even when it's in order to give some of ourselves to others.

  • Amber Anderson
    2018-12-20 13:11

    This is about a young woman (she's between 18 and 20, I think) who stumbles upon a teaching job.She's eccentric, almost OCD, but in a whimsical and charming way that allows her to form interesting relationships with her second grade students...Not to mention the science teacher, whom she has mixed feelings about. He's cute and fun and she wants to bang him but she's afraid she'll lose him or hurt him or kill him so when she's horny she eats soap to supress her desire. Weird, I know, but within Aimee Benders lovely storytelling, it all makes sense.

  • Kirsty
    2018-12-25 19:04

    I am a huge fan of Aimee Bender's whimsical, clever work, and very much enjoyed An Invisible Sign of My Own. It is an unusual novel, as I have found all of her work to be, with an awful lot of depth to it. Interesting and strange, An Invisible Sign of My Own has rather an original feel to it, and is filled with glorious descriptions and some quite moving scenes.

  • earthy
    2018-12-21 16:54

    Bender's writing style is mesmerizing, which is just as well, since the actual plot and characters in this book are completely unbelieveable and difficult to sympathize with. Other reviewers have mentioned the ridiculous notion that a 19-year-old without any training could be hired (without a resume, without an interview) as an elementary school math teacher, and yes, that's certainly one of the many issues this book has with Realism vs. Artsy, Dream-like Quality. I'm prepared to suspend disbelief for a good story, and this one definitely has its moments, but overall it comes across as more of a Literary Exercise than a real story about real people making real life decisions. By the time we got to second graders attacking each other with axes in the classroom, I was a little fed up, though there's something very appealing about Mona as a narrator and her experiences as a lover of numbers and someone who's obviously suffering from OCD and depression. Worth a read, certainly, but not quite the book it was trying to be.

  • Rye
    2019-01-18 16:10

    I think I'm going to have to abandon this one about 2/3 of the way through. Aimee Bender's writing kept me in it for as long as I was. There are some really good literary moments. Unfortunately, I have been getting increasingly annoyed with the novel itself. Many of the reviews I have read here reflect on the lack of believability. While I am willing to suspend some of that disbelief for good writing, much of it did not pay off and could have been handled better, particularly in the school scenes. I teach elementary school and there was little that connected for me here. I chose to read this book because I had read a few of Aimee Bender's short stories. I liked the surreal quality in these. It didn't work in An Invisible Sign of My Own, but I think I'll try going back to the short stories. I do enjoy her style.

  • Bill H
    2018-12-31 18:57

    I was bemused by the some of the criticism of this book I've read here and there, mostly complaining about it requiring too much suspension of disbelief. I'm not sure how the author could have more clearly telegraphed THIS IS A FAIRY TALE without, say, huge flaming letters on a mountaintop. I can see how it would be an unsatisfactory read you were demanding realism, but read it instead without that bias and you'll read, I think, the book the author intended.

  • Jenny Schmenny
    2018-12-27 16:02

    I loved this. Admittedly, I have a surreal and unhealthy relationship with numbers myself, so I could relate to the plot. There's a leaden quality to the whole story, inertia and weight that threaten to drag the reader down, but here's the thing: you have a choice! You can decide to pluck the beauty and sweetness from down among all those stones. Bender's got some seriously whimsical ways.

  • Jordan
    2019-01-10 19:53

    i love working with people who have ocd, but get bored while reading about them. also annoyed when all it takes is a cute boyfriend to make the ocd go away. (though that boyfriend waaaaaaas cute.)

  • Sonia
    2019-01-15 19:09

    Ho inaugurato il 2012 con un romanzo che merita davvero.Buon segno per me, per le mie letture, per i miei libri. Un romanzo che fin dalle prime pagine mi aveva già convinta ad attribuirgli le 4 stelline anobiane. Aimée Bender sa scrivere, sa raccontare, sa spiazzare, sa confondere, deludere, rallegrare, inorridire... tiene costantemente il nostro bagaglio di emozioni in movimento.Inizia la sua storia con una fiaba dal retrogusto amaro ma dal lieto fine, ed è a quella fiaba che tutto ritorna. Protagonista è un'adolescente di vent'anni (non me ne vogliano le ventenni, ma a quell'età si ancora del tutto immersi nel pieno dell'adolescenza!) che si ritrova con un padre improvvisamente vittima di un male senza nome (depressione), messa fuori casa dalla madre non per cattiveria ma per ricevere la possibilità di iniziare a vivere la sua vita. A vent'anni Mona ha già rinunciato ai suoi sogni, all'amore, a un futuro. Le resta un'ossessione per i numeri e un rassicurante tamburellare con le dita su ogni superficie a portata di nocche. Senza averlo cercato si ritrova insegnante di matematica in una scuola elementare, i cui studenti sembrano essere tutti normalmente problematici, quanto o più di lei. Non continuo nella narrazione: la Bender ha saputo immergere un racconto originale e difficile in una storia quotidiana. Non avremo a che fare con una giovane adolescente (la tipica americana dei romanzi contemporanei) ma un personaggio nuovo, diverso, unico. Una ragazza che deve affrontare un mondo adulto senza averne apparentemente la voglia, ma che in realtà ha a disposizione tutti i mezzi possibili per poterlo vivere al meglio. Tutte le persone che incontrerà sarebbero sembrate fuori dagli schemi in qualsiasi altro romanzo: il vicino di casa che si appende ogni giorno al collo un numero diverso a seconda del suo umore, l'insegnante di scienze che fa impersonare ai bambini le malattie più terribili, i bambini stessi che ci appaiono come dei piccoli terroristi... siamo capitati in un mondo dove la parola "normale" non rispecchia assolutamente il nostro criterio di normalità (e questo dovrebbe farci porre dei dubbi su cosa possa essere davvero normale...).Personaggi usciti da un manicomio? Certamente no, ma dalla sapiente penna della Bender che non vuole assolutamente seguire la scia dei suoi colleghi. Spiazza e soddisfa allo stesso tempo.E' un piacere leggere queste pagine, da qualcuno definite una fiaba per adulti. Come ogni fiaba che si rispetti, anche questa ha il suo lieto fine ce l'ha, anche se non come ce lo si aspetterebbe.

  • Kwoomac
    2018-12-19 20:08

    There really wasn't much of a plot in this meandering tale of 19 year old woman, who struggles with most aspects of life, who is grounded only by her love of numbers. Implausibly, she becomes a 2nd grade teacher, without any training, because there is a shortage of teachers and the principal saw her doing long-division in a park for fun. Really ! Most of the characters in the book are just variations of the main character, Mona Gray. Her next door neighbor fashions numbers out of wax to wear around his neck to rate how he is feeling that day. The numbers range from 1-75 but he usually hovers around a 15. Her students bring in things from home which look like numbers. A bar of soap carved into a 9, a piece of IV tubing made into a 0, an amputated arm shaped like a 1. She hangs an axe on the wall of the classroom, because it looks like a 7. Spoiler good will come of this. Anyway, I stuck with this book because there is some really beautiful prose in there, "his lips are as sweet as orange slices on a plate on a porch in the summer with weeping willow trees and larks."

  • Audrey
    2018-12-27 17:17

    Aimee Bender is one of my new favorite novelist/short story writers. Her short stories, for me, fall into the same category as Kelly Link's work: these magical little gems that are weird and wonderful and can't be nicely wrapped up. There's just something about them that I adore, even when I don't like certain things about them. That's the case with this novel. There was so much that I loved: the language, the symbolism, the quirkiness, the emotion (what a SAD novel this was, in many ways). BUT I really disliked the main character. Actually, I liked her well enough...I think I was just disturbed by her, by the things she did. She made me uncomfortable, she made me squirm. It was a strange feeling to like a book so much but to still be so put off by the main character.

  • Ray
    2019-01-12 20:14

    My favorite Bender thus far. Loved everything about this story. The characters, the premise, the prologue... everything. Never stop writing Aimee!!

  • Anncleire
    2018-12-26 19:21

    Recensione anche sul mio blog:“Un segno invisibile e mio” è l’ultimo libro di Aimee Bender che ho letto e di cui mi sono innamorata ancora una volta. Edito da Minimum Fax è una storia irreale, magica e incredibilmente toccante, che naviga nelle acque del magic realism e ne esce edulcorata da ogni logica, per restituire una prospettiva nuova sul mondo. Mona racchiude tutte le idiosincrasie di una società che sfugge alla logica imprevedibile del tempo, accompagnando quella ineluttabile dei numeri, per una storia che di certo non lascia indifferenti.Leggere la Bender è sempre un viaggio formidabile in storie che non lasciano mai indifferenti che scavano nell’animo umano con una delicatezza stupefacente. Questo libro racchiude un po’ tutte le paure di una società in crescita, fagocitata dai gesti ripetuti di una quotidianità imprevedibile. La Bender scava, incredula, in una società indifferente, che non accetta i suoi limiti e non riesce a prevenire il male che serpeggia tra i suoi membri. In fondo è questo che sconvolge, l’incapacità di guardare oltre il proprio naso, di rendersi conto che siamo tutti un po’ infelici, un po’ incostanti, incredibilmente fragili. Mona è l’emblema di chi si agita, insoddisfatto nei meandri di chi non si rende conto dell’imperturbabilità della perdita, della insoddisfazione che serpeggia fino a consumare. Mona è una ragazza che rinuncia appena raggiunge il successo, che si priva del piacere per paura di vederselo portare via. Si ferma un attimo prima che sia troppo tardi, incurante dei passi che servono per andare avanti, dei successi negati, delle insoddisfazioni che si sedimentano nelle negazioni della propria personalità. Perché scappare è fin troppo semplice, scappare sembra la soluzione più semplice anche quando è la scelta più sbagliata possibile. Mona è intrappolata in un bolla creata dalla malattia del padre e dalle sue incapacità esasperate dal suo bisogno spasmodico di controllare l’impossibile. Mona vive per i numeri, per il suo bisogno di gestire il mondo intoro a lei, il suo tic di picchiettare contro le superfici di legno si trasforma in atto ripetuto e mai corretto, in un momento che scandisce le sue parole e le sue ansie. Mona è una ragazza incredula, ma che mentre sembra solo galleggiare durante tutto l’arco narrativo tira fuori tutta la sua forza. D’altronde questa potrebbe essere la storia di ognuno di noi, di chi cerca di essere capito, di essere visto davvero nel marasma di umanità che ci circonda. La solitudine sembra inghiottirci, anche nel bel mezzo di una folla e ognuno cerca modi per emergere, per catturare l‘attenzione di chi ci circonda. Negli incontri di Mona il motivo principale resta sempre quel punto di incontro, quei dettagli che dovrebbero emergere in un momento in cui tutto sembra oscuro. Mona si muove instabile, masticando sapone e cercando di nascondersi mentre tutto intorno a lei sembra crollare e precipitare. Dall’altra parte però c’è una costante e una sicurezza, l’infilarsi preciso e rispettoso dei numeri, le somme e le moltiplicazioni, le tabelline e le serie numeriche che si ripercuotono in un ordine inalterabile. Comprendere le regole equivale a muoverci con sicurezza nel mondo dei numeri. In fondo non siamo tutti numeri pari facilmente divisibili, incasellabili. Ci si perde, si incespica nel mondo e si sopravvive, perché in fondo è questo che dobbiamo fare, andare avanti e vivere. La Bender è straordinaria, sensibile e acuta non fornisce la strada più facile, ma guida il lettore in un viaggio difficile, in una storia che si articola intorno ad una fiaba, una scelta che dilania e fortifica, che scalpita e cresce. L’ambientazione, vaga e incerta, si accumula intorno ad un ospedale dai vetri azzurri e le prospettive di un luogo in cui tutto sembra perdere di valore, in un modo o nell’altro. Eppure anche il luogo è importante, perché può essere quello in cui viviamo, una città vale l’altra quando la storia che si racconta assume i connotati di una storia universale. E la Bender con poche parole descrive un mondo in cui interrogarsi, in cui muoversi e in cui perdersi. Il particolare da non dimenticare? Il numero di un maratoneta…Una storia agrodolce, che si interroga sulla solitudine dell’uomo, una storia incerta e intrisa di surreale e incredibilmente toccante, che stupisce e getta una luce nuova sul mondo, che parla il linguaggio della matematica ma che fatica a comprenderlo, anche perché spesso i segni che ci lancia sono invisibili. Buona lettura guys!

  • christa
    2018-12-19 21:14

    Sometimes I make grand statements about myself that sound like facts but really aren’t true at all. The one running through my head right now is along the lines of how I hate quirky-for-quirkies-sake, but that Aimee Bender avoided that pratfall with her weird world of Mona Gray in the novel “An Invisible Sign of My Own.” But I don’t really hate quirky-for-quirkies sake. I love Miranda July and her quirkiness is an affectation more jarring than a monocle … god love her. She once set her short story characters in a living room-based swim class. They did the crawl on the carpeting. She voiced the character of the rabbit in her own movie. Quirky-for-quirkies-sake is a super-stoned Abbi Jacobson barrell rolling from the waiting room of the dentist’s office on “Broad City.” Me, liar of lies, cackling so mightily that Hulu freezes. It doesn’t matter how I feel about quirkiness anyway. Like I said, “An Invisible Sign of My Own” isn’t quirky-for-quirkies-sake. Each quirk feels like an organic quirk, whether it’s Mona’s dad within his own crop semi-circle pushing the bad away or Mona taking a bite out of a bar of soap. Mona Gray used to be carefree and happy. She was a great runner. Then her father was sidetracked by mental illness and she folded herself into the world of math. Now, still dewy with new adulthood, her mother pushes her out of the nest and she takes over as math teacher at an elementary school where the second-graders quickly become her favorite class. She becomes smitten with Lisa Venus, a student whose mother is dying of Eye Cancer. She also invents a math project in which every week, students find things in nature that represent numbers. For instance, that axe hanging in the front of the classroom -- the one Mona inexplicably bought herself for her birthday -- could be considered a 7. Meanwhile, Mona’s mom dreams of vacations while her dad is held hostage by his illness. She’s caught the eye of the science teacher with science burns on his forearms. And she’s captivated by her former math teacher-turned hardware store owner-slash parents’ next door neighbor. Mr. Jones wears a wax number around his neck every day, a numerical indicator of his mood. The higher the digits the better. Mona is one of few people who notices and understands what it means. Math class takes an ugly turn one day and Mona’s 7 plays a major role in one of the most cringe-causing scenes in all of fiction. This is something I used to categorize in my head, but all that remains of the list is a scene written by Ryu Murakami from “In the Miso Soup” and Bender’s twee blood bath. The story is a sweet and charming (invented word alert) melanchomedy just overflowing with good little nooks perfect for shelving one’s disbelief.

  • Marielle
    2019-01-04 17:06

    This book was simply awesome! The character of Mona Gray had many traits that I see in myself. It will make you feel more comfortable with your idiosyncricies, and allow you to realize that you are not the only one who notices you have them. Written in a flowing, funny, easy to read, but poetic style, I soon realized after the first few chapters that this book was rich beyond comparison to most, with many layers of story including heart, life, disease, coming of age, and learning to care about others. After becoming the math teacher at the elementary school, she creates a new lesson entitled, Numbers and Materials. This involves her very unique students to be creative and find numbers in everyday things like some boy's father's severed arm, soap, and IV's. Mona even brings her own material in, and new birthday present, an ax, the downfall of her kingdom. The only other teacher to practice such new teaching techniques is the science teacher, Benjamin, who has his students mock familiar diseases. Mona tries to fire him, but they soon share a special moment blowing cigarette smoke into giant bubbles- hence they....! "There's something about you Mona Gray, that inflates my heart!" They are perfect for each other. This tug and pull of their relationship makes the conclusion ever more satisfying. Yet there are still other relationships in this novel that carry it through to the end. Lisa, her most beloved and special student, has a mother who is dieing of cancer and had since become a troubled little girl. Like Lisa, Mona's father suddenly woke up one day with a disease of his own that no one can name or explain. Since growing up, Mona has seen signs of death around her with numbers on people's front lawns, numbers that will mark the age of the residence death. This fear has not only caused her to quit track, but also to knock on wood relentlessly, to get her luck back, to stop the people around her from dieing, even her next door neighbor and ex-math teacher, Mr. Jones. He never asks her if something is wrong, and she resents him for that. Even though she was the only one to notice the wax numbers he wears around his neck. Numbers and death become her obsession, until of course she grows into the person she becomes (with her loved ones beside her.) The book ending story is also a creative masterpiece in itself. I highly recommend this book! It burns like love.

  • Siobhán Mc Laughlin
    2019-01-12 14:59

    I started out liking this book - the fairytale element, the clever use of numbers as a thematic component, the lovely lyrical language that carries you along in a quicksilver current from line to line, page to page, as in a dream.But then somehow, somewhere, it flopped. The plot was flimsy, at best. And its dark subject matter - death, cancer, mental illness - is not dealt with sharply enough, hovers as a mere shadow on the narrative that never fully comes into the light. Things are vague, too vague, hinted at a hundred times over, but never fully effectively engaged with. Fairytales push the boundaries of expectation, but not their own foundations. This one has not near enough moral substance or backbone to support it.And to like a book you need to like its narrator, or at least, trust them. I have to admit I couldn't. Mona Gray, flits skittishly between emotional insecurity and borderline crazy (taking an axe into a classroom? - I mean c'mon, really - how could that even happen??! or how could someone even get a job as a teacher without a background/mental health check??!)An OCD-like obsession with numbers - endearing, yes, an obsession with eating soap - eh, no, that's just bizarre. And veering on the ridiculous, like so much of this novel. Not to mention, unsettling. The author pushes too far on too many accounts and turns what could have been profound into just plain silly. This reader, for one, tut-tutted my way through the rest of it. Yes, it is written in the fairytale-esque genre and disbelief must be suspended. But there is a fine line between whimsical intent and a narrative riddled with stupendously unbelievable incidents that rip credibility to shreds. I ended up getting more and more annoyed with its flippant approach to content as I went on and ended it thinking - what the heck just happened? It's all just a great grey blur to me now (sorry Mona). I could see the premise, the plot, but it never fully unfolded for me, got lost in too vague and ambitious a master plan. Even some of the intricate spot-on observations started to become ludicrous, flair disintegrating into farce. A shame, really. In saying all that, I really enjoyed her second novel, 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.' It clearly has graduated from this style to a more fluent and strong one. But this one has made me question whether I would read more of her work or not...

  • Chris Ruggeri
    2019-01-06 17:07

    Good book. I especially liked the two stories (fables? allegories?) that bookend the action. Just not sure about all the stuff in between. I mean, I got it in the end. It made sense, what she was going for, and I can see how the whole story was working towards her point, but it just seemed like it took a lot of endurance to get there. It felt like a good portion of the story was just Bender spinning her wheels, showing off her considerable talent for finding uncommon descriptions of things--which is impressive, and enjoyable to an extent, but ultimately not quite enough to be satisfying.It's never a good sign when you decide to take a break from a book two-thirds of the way in because there's something you want to read more...if a book hasn't grabbed you by then, you pretty much know finishing it is going to be a chore. And while in the end I felt like the payoff in this case was worth the effort, I can't help but feel disappointed with the book as a whole. Maybe it was all just a little too realistic for me. Bender's short stories always felt less grounded in reality, and I think that's what I liked most about them.One other note: Aimee Bender will forever be linked in my head with David Benioff. I read both of their short story collections around the same time. Both were debuts and read like they'd been lifted straight out of grad school short story classes--not in a bad way exactly, just in that there seemed to be specific things each author was working on in each of their stories, like they were exercises geared to enhance specific aspects of the authors' chops. Anyway, it was exciting, because in both cases I felt like I was getting in on the ground floor, like these were going to be my guys, and I'd be able to follow their careers from start to finish, not catching on after the third book or after I heard good buzz about them or got a heads up from a friend.Then Benioff went off and started writing for the movies, hobnobbing with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt and marrying Amanda Peet. He's got a new book out now, but I'm having trouble building up the necessary enthusiasm for it for some reason. And Bender, well turns out I've been slacking on her career too (this was written in 2001?), but it's nice to know she's still out there. Still slogging away.

  • Tatiana
    2018-12-20 21:00

    I loved this, but not in a love-love sort of way. Love like part awe, part disturb. Now that I have read both The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and An Invisible Sign of my Own, I am sure of one thing: I am envious of Aimee Bender’s remarkable talent. She astounds me with her feeling, ecstatic prose. There is a magnetism to her worlds, a high-wire act, which plants you in the magical realism that is enough like reality to fool you, to draw you in--until it’s too late. It sounds like I’m describing a horror novel, but perhaps I am. The world is scary: cancer, weapons, love. Math. Living. All of this is tackled through the eyes of Mona, a twenty-year-old math teacher (yes, yes she wasn’t degreed--really, the least of the leaps in disbelief) who is also very surely OCD and anxiety-ridden and uses behavioral aversion therapy on herself. And yet, the second-grade kiddos she teachers are crazier. It’s a recipe for disaster, and some astoundingly compelling writing. I think what fascinates me most is how Bender leaves threads bare, not perfectly tied off. Open for interpretation. That takes restraint and trust that readers will piece fragments together how they see fit. Mostly I admire her courage to tell a strange, complex story that, if you’re willing to see them, makes statements on violence in the classroom, the strain of long-term illness on a family, and the choices we make in our own happiness. Do we pin ourselves in, do what has always been done? Do we quit before we can succeed? Or do we find a place to grow, risking failure and eventual death, so we can live?

  • steffy
    2018-12-25 17:21

    "...I laugh just like my mother, is what she usually said, in horror. Oh God, she said, I'm so terrified I'm going to be exactly like my mother. I nodded when she said it, but I never really understood her. I didn't understand the big deal. Everyone said what she said, but it was the opposite that broke my heart."I think I could love this book by that moment alone, because it truly captures how I have felt about my mom since she passed. But that is not what this story is about, nor is it why I love this book.For the true-at-heart English major literature lover / downright bad at math hater, this book was a seamless blend of beautiful writing and word with a captivating story about the one thing that kept a young woman going: math. Hard as that concept was for ne to grasp, getting to know Mona and learning just what she was grappling with, you began to understand why the numbers kept her grounded. While I didn't totally love Aimee Bender's short story collection, "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt," I was a big fan of "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake." I think Aimee has a fabulous way of telling lovely stories with unique twists.I can't wait to share this book, but it wasn't my literary friends I had in mind. I think my math teacher friends would really enjoy this lovely read about Mona's passion for math, and the way she fostered it in her own students.*p.s. I just watched the movie, "An Invisible Sign", and I want to add that you should a) not judge the book by the movie, and b)... not watch the movie after you've read the book. it's pretty terrible.

  • Joanna
    2018-12-21 19:06

    I just really like Aimee Bender's writing. I was disappointed with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but loved Willful Creatures. This book gets inside the head of loveable, flawed, slightly OCD Mona. As she goes about her compulsive knocking on wood, and her misplaced focus on certain things to the exclusion of others, I was sailing along. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone. There are no explanations of what's really happening. For example, Mona's father is ill (or is he?) with an unexplained illness that is mostly described as his "fading." There are second-graders who don't act much like children, but it worked for me because their motivations and actions were being filtered through Mona's perception, so I was willing to believe that she wasn't seeing exactly what was really happening.I found this author's images fresh, the elements of magical realism funny and interesting, and the whole story surprisingly heartfelt and vulnerable. I'm looking forward to reading her short story collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories.

  • Andrew
    2018-12-31 14:09

    DNF at page 80. Overly pretentious writing similar to her most disappointing short stories, coupled with flowery descriptions of gratioutous self harm...absolutely not for me.

  • Kathryn Juergens
    2018-12-30 15:08

    In my book club, we take turns choosing the book. There are only two rules: try to pick a book no one has read and no books written by dead white men. My first choice for this month was actually Aimee Bender's newest book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. One member was already halfway through the book so instead I chose An Invisible Sign of My Own, her first novel. An Invisible Sign of My Own has all of the bits that I love about Aimee Bender: the surrealism, the delicate language, and the quirky female lead. But, by the end I was left unsatisfied. The relationship between Mona and her father never felt real or strong enough. Unfortubately, because her father's illness was the beginning of her problems, the relationship must feel real. The strongest parts of the book were when Mona is a teacher and interacting with students and the time she spends with and thinking about the science teacher. In these moments, Mona is a fully realized character whose quirks help propel the character and the story. The weakest portions are devoted to the poorly developed father and the inconsistenly developed Mr. Jones.

  • Jill
    2019-01-14 20:57

    Aimee Bender constructs her sentences like no other, and I think that's what draws me into her books and stories. She's enchantingly poetic even when she's describing unsavory things (in this case, like the narrator sticking a bar of soap into her mouth. Who would imagine that a scene like that would sound beautiful? But somehow it does). She also kicks ass at blending the traditional with the unexpected by holding a magnifying glass to characters' quirks and hangups. On the surface, and in the description, An Invisible Sign of My Own seems like a vaguely familiar story of girl-meets-boy, girl-falls-for-boy, girl-resists-falling-for-boy. It's so much more than that, though, because spinning an emotional story isn't enough for Ms. Bender; she focuses on Mona's deepest fears and insecurities by coupling emotion with her signature blend of magical realism. This is the first Aimee Bender novel I've read -- I was curious how her writing style would carry over to a longer work. Although admittedly I enjoy her short story collections more (check out The Girl in the Flammable Skirt or Willful Creatures), I did like An Invisible Sign of My Own a whole lot!

  • Lenore Beadsman64
    2018-12-30 21:16

    un segno visibile e purtroppo condivisomeno coeso di L'Inconfondibile tristezza della torta al limone, è tutto incentrato sui problemi di incomunicabilità di Mona e, da un certo punto in poi, sui suoi deliritratto caratteriale ossessivo-compulsivo, Mona è una giovane donna che cerca di sopravvivere alle sue idiosincrasie, che sono abbastanza da renderle difficile il rapporto umano, e insegna matematica alle elementarii danni che può fare una persona con simili problemi in una scuola elementare americana sono tantissimi, infatti a un certo punto la faccenda le sfugge di mano e qualcuno si fa male, lei però molto di piùe alla fine il tutto resta sospeso, ma non di quel sospeso postmoderno che a suo modo ha un senso, ma solo lasciato cadere, come se il racconto fosse solo un pezzo della vita dei protagonisti e tutto fosse stato fotografato in un istante cristallizzato dal desiderio di immobilità di Mona.