An Invisible Woman

by Anne Strieber

If you were to look up the definition of “New York
socialite” in the dictionary, one gets the feeling you would
find Kealy Ryerson's picture beside it. Born into a wealthy family,
Kealy is married to James Ryerson, a wildly successful if
improbably principled defense attorney; has two children enrolled
in private schools; and a maid to clean up after her on a daily
basis. On the cusp of middle age, she is able to afford the
surgical touch-ups and carefully applied cosmetics that let her
rage against the dimming, if not dying, of the light. Her life and
accruements vanish from her in the space of a few short minutes.
She receives a terse telephone call from her husband, telling her
in no uncertain terms to gather up their children and leave the
country. Minutes later, he is dead, and Kealy is on her own, and on
the run, in ways she never could have imagined.

So begins AN INVISIBLE WOMAN, Anne Strieber's debut novel. This is
an incredibly ambitious work, though Strieber's reach occasionally
exceeds her grasp. There are a few problems here. The pacing of
this work is intermittent. Quite a bit happens at the beginning,
but then the reader is left stumbling in Kealy's wake for just a
bit too long as she and her children find that their avenues of
escape are cut off even as they are pursued by the same shadowy
assassins who have killed not only her husband but also his private
investigator and a New York District attorney with whom James
Ryerson was improbably having lunch.

Daughter Allison, a bit too precocious for her own good, just
happens to be school roomies with a streetwise black teenager named
Lushawn Davis, who just happens to have a noble but shady uncle who
plays a major role later on. The Davis family apartment becomes the
port in the dangerous storm gathering around what is left of the
Ryerson family. Kealy soon finds that not only is a group of hit
men after her, but also that the entire city is looking for her,
thanks to a reward being offered by the police department, whose
chief is --- interestingly enough --- her ex-husband.

As I indicated, AN INVISIBLE WOMAN is a complicated book, and it
takes Strieber a number of pages to set up the events. But don't
dash yet; once things are in place, this tale becomes quite
interesting indeed. Kealy finds herself hiding in the middle of a
marginal working class neighborhood without her clothes, makeup, or
any of the adornments that tell the world who she is and where she
comes from. She therefore becomes nondescript, and invisible. She
is able to attend her husband's funeral without any of her friends,
including her ex-husband, recognizing her. She is shooed away from
high-end boutiques, which she used to patronize, and is even able
to infiltrate her husband's law office as a cleaning woman.

Yet at the same time, while staying with the Davis family, she
becomes glaringly visible, the only white woman within blocks of
their humble apartment. Strieber sets up a delicious dichotomy
here, wherein Kealy resents both her simultaneous status as a
non-entity and a very visible target. She wants the safe,
predictable life that she had only days before. Now, with only her
wits, and an uneasy and grudging partnership with Lushawn's
ex-convict uncle, Kealy slowly begins to use her invisibility
against her pursuers, in a bid to regain her life and obtain
justice --- and revenge --- on behalf of her murdered

AN INVISIBLE WOMAN might have been a better book, but the ultimate
villain and motive of the piece was somewhat vague and unformed.
There were certainly enough issues and events left open at the end
to form the basis for a sequel, but given what occurred here, I
don't know that enough would be left open to sustain another
suspense novel. Strieber, however, demonstrates great promise as a
writer, and when she does hit the mark --- particularly in the
second half --- her work is striking, assured, and compelling. I
look forward to more, and better, from her in the future.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

An Invisible Woman
by Anne Strieber

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765310937
  • ISBN-13: 9780765310934