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An Invisible Sign of My Own

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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  3,406 ratings  ·  422 reviews
Aimee Bender's funny, delicately shaded first novel is a constant delight, even at its most warped. An Invisible Sign of My Own tells the story of Mona Gray, a math wiz and a high school track star, whose ordinary childhood comes to pieces when her father is stricken with a mysterious illness. There doesn't seem to be a name for it, but he looks sort of gray and seems frai ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published 2001 by Windmill (first published July 18th 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Travis
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 Ben
...more
jo
Jan 14, 2008 jo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hurt
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 ourselv ...more
Anne
oh, aimee bender. it's like you wrote this book and mailed it straight to the little postbox in my heart.
Anthony
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 “invis ...more
Carrie
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 ...more
Nadine Larter
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 onl ...more
Emily
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 fai
...more
earthy
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 disbeli ...more
Rachel
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 scene ...more
Amber Anderson
Oct 04, 2008 Amber Anderson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rachel, salina
Shelves: novels, favorites
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 A
...more
Jenny Schmenny
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
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.)
Kwoomac
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 aro ...more
Audrey
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 ...more
Bill H
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.
Kelly McCoy
The description on the back of the book is very vague, and it gives the idea that this book is a romance but it’s really not. Sure, there is a small part where boy meets girl, but it’s far from typical. The story is about Mona Gray, on her 19th birthday her mother kicks her out of the house in hopes of Mona finding her own normal life. When Mona was a child her father became ill, but unfortunately doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him. His illness affected Mona and as the years continued ...more
Ray
My favorite Bender thus far. Loved everything about this story. The characters, the premise, the prologue... everything. Never stop writing Aimee!!
christa
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 sto
...more
Sonia
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.
Pro
...more
Marielle
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 o ...more
Joanna
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 unexpl ...more
Kathryn Juergens
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
...more
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
un segno visibile e purtroppo condiviso

meno 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 deliri
tratto 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 elementari
i danni che può fare una persona con simili problemi in una scuola elementare
...more
Trin
I've enjoyed Bender's short stories (collected in The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Wilfull Creatures). This, her only novel, was written in between the two, but unlike her shorter fiction, it really didn't work for me. Mona, the protagonist, is the kind of improbable fictional person who buys herself an axe for her birthday—from a guy who wears wax numbers around his neck that signify his mood. Each new character is stranger-than-thou; this sort of thing worked okay in a short format, but ove ...more
*elasticfate
Several years ago, someone recommended Aimee Bender's writing to me because they said her eclectic creativity reminded them of my prose at the time. I never got around to reading her until now, but just couldn't seem to make it through this book. Her stories are in fact very unique & whimsical - that wasn't really an issue. And I honestly wish I could have read more, but it just wasn't grabbing my attention enough...I like reading Don Delillo because he can write about the mundane & craf ...more
Timb
so i found out this is also a movie after reading this and i'm totally not interested in watching it. this was a total dud. still love aimee bender and this book had flashes of fantastic absurdness and wonder, but too often it missed the mark for me. \_(ツ)_/ ...more
Jamie elizabeth hudrlik
this is my most favorite book ever in the world! i actually got excited to read this each night and i was really sad when i finally finished it because i never wanted it to end.


this book is about imagination. it's about great writing. it's about a girl and her math teacher and the funny ways of thinking about things. it's about getting into people's minds. it's about mona's thoughts and her ax and watching her grow and her neighbor who wears number necklaces everyday that match up to his mood. 1
...more
Brandi
What a dream. What a magical dream.
Siobhán Mc Laughlin
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 v
...more
Kate
You need to be comfortable on the periphery of the centricity of reality to enjoy this book-- as in what math teacher would be allowed to hang a sharpened ax on her wall to represent the number 7?

But if you're there, tiptoeing along the edges, knocking on wood through life, craving order in life and death, not wanting to have the future come crashing down because you relied on a certain outcome or the knowing others see you, you aren't invisible, then you may likely find a deep connection with
...more
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Aimee Bender is the author of the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures. Her work has been widely anthologized and has been translated into ten languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
More about Aimee Bender...
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake The Girl in the Flammable Skirt Willful Creatures The Color Master: Stories Tin House: Fantastic Women

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“The world can ask you to participate, but it's a day-today decision if you want to agree to that proposal.” 11 likes
“It is all about numbers. It 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.” 7 likes
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